Tips from the McMaster Community

Sometimes, I suspect that students are not as involved as they would like to be in the course.
Bob Henderson, Department of Kinesiology

Teaching Tip # 9, by Don Woods, Department of Chemical Engineering, introduced the idea of the "one-minute paper". This class evaluation eedback technique allows students to offer instant responses about specific classes.

  1. Please list or describe three things you liked abou the session.
  2. Please list your suggestions for improving the session.
  3. Use the reverse side for other comments.
When I started this process, I expected to get positive and negative feedback which would help me to organize future classes, to improve the specific class in question, and to offer substantial feedback to guest presenters.

However, the brief form has become much more than I originally intended. It has come to serve as a means of dialogue, often a running dialogue with my students.

If a student chooses to write a brief response, I reserve the option to respond in kind with immediate feedback "on the feedback", in the spirit of an open friendly dialogue about teaching. Sometimes the interaction is anonymous, sometimes not. Either way, all year we maintain an "in" and "out" envelope between class periods.

Often a point of educational philosophy is queried or directly challenged. An element of my blind self as a teacher might be exposed in a courteous manner. A compliment otherwise unnoticed or shared is acknowledged and can be returned in kind. The salient and more subtle elements of the course content are regularly discussed.

Receiving and writing quick (emphasis on the quick) thoughtful post-class comments has opened up a new level of interaction that has paid dividends by drawing the students into the curriculum more directly and adding a quality of mutuality to the classroom.

In a class of fifty students, I receive about 10 comment sheets per week and it takes 30 minutes of my office time to respond. To date the time has been well spent. Since more student comments would require more time, this idea might not work with larger classes.

This method has proven to be an effective way to learn about my teaching and how it is received, as well as to share my thinking about my teaching with those directly involved.

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