July 22 2006 (Refreshed July 29, 2012)
eCoaching Tip 20: Debriefing Activity with Students — What One Change Would They Recommend?
Wouldn’t you like to know specifically which of the course activities and experiences really worked for your students’ learning? Which activities really had an impact on their knowledge, their skills and their ways of thinking? The best way to do this is to ask. J
Ask Your Students — When and Where?
Here’s how you might ask your students about what really worked for them. First of all, avoid using any kind of formal survey for this question. Rather, simply create a place on the course site for students to informally share some ideas and preferences. Encourage them to think about this question as if they were sitting down and having coffee or talking on the phone with you and their fellow students. This place on the course site can be a course blog area, or a cyber café discussion forum, or a forum labeled for “My best course experience.”
After you have created the space for your learners’ ideas, post an announcement asking them to respond to one or more of these questions. The last week of a course is a good time to do this, but it doesn’t hurt to ask it earlier.
- What was the best course experience — reading, activity, project, and discussion — for you personally? And why?
- What would you have liked to have studied in more detail, or explored more widely?
- What course activity do you strongly recommend to keep for the next offering of this course? And Why?
- What one change would you recommend?
Evaluation Form for the Course – How does this fit?
Every term students are asked to fill out a Teacher Effectiveness Questionnaire (TEQ) giving feedback about their learning experience, or some similar evaluation survey about their course. By necessity the question items in these surveys are quite generic and are generally not processed until long after the students have dispersed.
What we are suggesting with this activity is a simple debriefing of the course and how it worked for your students. Students really do have a soft place in their hearts generally for students who might be taking the course after them. You can share with them that their comments can help improve the course for students who take subsequent versions of the course and that their comments really do make a difference.
When faculty use this debriefing activity, they are often pleasantly surprised. Students often respond that the best parts of the course are those that are the least work for the faculty and that activities on which you might spend a great deal of time are not that important after all. Try it and see.
Note: These E-coaching tips were initially developed for faculty in the School of Leadership & Professional Advancement at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. This library of tips has been organized and updated through 2016 in the second edition of the book, The Online Teaching Survival Guide: Simple and Practical Pedagogical Tips coauthored with Rita Marie Conrad. Judith can be reached judith followed by designingforlearning.org.