Students constantly provide feedback, both subtly and overtly, on how they view class. While sometimes there are unrelated reasons for the measures used to gather feedback, keeping a close eye on a number of factors helps to maintain student numbers, increase student motivation and, of course, lead to more students acquiring more language and skills over the duration of a course.
Students at Lertlah School give positive feedback to their teacher by being attentive to their reading materials. PURICH TRIVITAYAKHUN
During class, student feedback is always present; you just have to tune into it. It can be in the forms of noisy students, lack of cooperation and tardiness, and even absenteeism. Positive feedback is often more difficult to notice and takes patience and experience to discern.
The first key is on-time arrival. I believe that if students enjoy class, they will make that extra effort to be on time. Some students always come late. This cannot be helped, but if they vary from class to class, it is probably due to something outside of class and not a reluctance to attend.
A second factor is toilet breaks. If students are constantly going to and coming from the toilet, something is wrong. Again, there are always exceptions, and it is inevitable that some will need to excuse themselves during a 90-minute class.
While the use of English would seem to be a good measure, unfortunately, with many students, in particular younger students and university students, peer pressure to speak in their first language is often stronger. However, if students make an attempt to speak English when being monitored, this should be seen as positive feedback. Students, who do not even try to use English when being monitored are clearly giving you negative feedback.
Other feedback comes from their level of attentiveness during a lecture, willingness to ask or answer questions and the speed at which they begin and complete pair or group work.
Personal questions from students and a willingness on their part to share their interests also provide excellent feedback. Certainly, some students tend to ask teachers personal questions simply to avoid doing class work, but if they ask meaningful questions and listen to and remember the answers, they are clearly offering positive feedback on their interest in the teacher.
Finally, an excellent way to judge student feelings is related to how much they are willing to share about themselves. While it is rare for students to start talking to teachers about their interests, many try to start such conversations through things they bring to class, including printed T-shirts, souvenir items, magazines, books and toys. While some will not be interested in talking about them, many are and just need the teacher to notice and ask.
Feedback outside the class
A positive feedback sign outside class is student willingness to not only be seen by a teacher but to enter into a casual conversation. A clear example can be seen on arriving to class and as the teacher makes his/her way through the students waiting to enter class.
Lack of eye contact, virtually no greeting, except perhaps for the odd, perfunctory "wai", is certainly negative feedback. If, on the other hand, students tend to wait farther and farther from the door to be the first to greet a teacher and perhaps have a short conversation, something is working well. Likewise, at break time, if students come and talk, great. If students stay away, that's not so good.
While I do not expect to become friends with my students, I do expect to be treated as though it were possible. As such, I often base my evaluation of student feedback on how people react to me in social circles. I find that by using the same guidelines, it offers more complete and continuous feedback on how my students are reacting to me and the course I am teaching.
Dr Timothy Cornwall has been teaching EFL for 30 years and is part of the Shinawatra University faculty. Co-founder of Thailand Educators Network, he can be reached through http://thaiednet.org, through his website speechwork.co.th, at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 081-834-8982.