Adapting the Course in Response to Student Feedback

In this section, Dr. Snowden describes ways in which he adapted the course mid-stream in response to student feedback.

I valued my students' opinions and tailored the course based on their input.

I valued my students' opinions and tailored the course based on their input.

— Dr. Snowden

Sometimes I asked for their opinions at the beginning of class, and they were pretty good about talking. I think they tended to respond because it was a pretty small group. I also told them to feel free to e-mail me anything they wanted to tell me or ask me about the class, and some of the students did that.

Below are several examples of how student input affected the class.

Exercises Given by the Student Lecturer

At the beginning of the semester, I asked the students to create one or two relevant exercises for their peers each time they were the student presenter. There were two goals for this. First, I wanted the student presenters to think about how to get the audience to learn some of the material through solving problems, as opposed to having the lecturer just tell the audience all of the material. Second, I wanted to post a collection of problems that the students could do to practice the material.

However, I think preparing for the lectures was a bigger task for them than I had thought it would be, and it took them longer to do than I had expected. The students did create exercises for their peers, but I noticed they would submit the exercises at the last minute or get behind on submitting them. I think the students just wanted to prioritize preparing for the lectures and didn't have much time after that. Also, it seemed that students weren't doing these optional problems. So, I asked the students for their feedback and they said that coming up with the problems took too much extra time after preparing the lectures. After two or three rounds of problems, we stopped doing that.

Typed Lecture Notes

At the beginning of the semester, students were expected to submit typed lecture notes for each lecture they gave. We did this for the first round of lectures, but then we decided not to continue this as it took much time and the course texts already had the same material written up.

Peer Feedback Cards

At the beginning of the semester, for each talk, everyone in the audience had a note card. On these notecards, students would write down, anonymously, criticisms or compliments of the lecture. I took everyone's note cards and then sent the lecturer an e-mail with what I thought were the relevant comments.

I had only intended to do this for the first round of lectures, but the students actually said they liked it a lot and they wanted to do it for the second round. So, we continued doing this for the second round. After the second round, students felt they'd already heard all the most useful feedback they expected to get from their peers, so we didn't use the cards for the rest of the semester.