Better Feedback in Just 19 Words

“I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.”

In this Pinkcast, Dan looks at Daniel Coyle’s book “The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups”.

In the book, Coyle highlights a large study of teachers giving feedback to students where it was found that using such words had a dramatic effect on boosting performance and effort.

The reason? Such language builds trust, signals belonging, and combines high standards with assurance the students can reach those standards.

Known as “Wise Feedback” Pink notes that we could all use a little of this in our own lives. Here’s the Pinkcast video (clicking it will open a new tab):

While the study noted here looked at teachers providing feedback to students, I am just as interested in the reverse, students giving teachers feedback.

Here’s an excerpt from a previous blog post:

At the end of each semester, students complete evaluation forms that ask a variety of questions about the course and the faculty member.

Known as CATS (Course And Teacher Survey – pretty clever, since our school mascot is the Wildcat), the results are used as part of the annual faculty evaluation process, as well as for decisions regarding tenure and promotion.

My view of the CATS is that from an overall, collective perspective, they probably provide a useful broad summary of the course and the teacher. Yes, there are some comments that are difficult to read, but then there are some that will put a smile on your face.

If a teacher has several years of CATS scores that average close to five, it is fairly likely that the person is a superb teacher. On the other hand, a teacher that has overall ratings close to 2 or 3 is likely not an effective teacher. Yes, sometimes the comments get personal, but when 100 students are reviewing you each semester, my belief is that the forms are offering useful information.

Some teachers complain that the CATS may be favorably biased towards teachers who are too easy, or are more form over substance, i.e., they are entertainers. But I think students are savvy enough to recognize good teaching, and bad teaching, when they see it and will complete the CATS form appropriately.

I ask my students to take the completion of the CATS forms seriously and to provide honest feedback about what they liked and did not like about the course and my teaching. As noted above, students know what makes for effective teaching, and I find such feedback helpful in my growth as a teacher.

(There is also the Rate My Professors web site that is another, less formal approach for students to provide feedback on teachers.)

Seth Godin has also written a good deal about the value of feedbackstating “…if you want to improve, you should actively seek feedback” and “genuine, useful, insightful feedback is a priceless gift.”

Having watched this Pinkcast, I now wonder if there is a way to have my students use those 19 words as a way to encourage them to give “genuine, useful, and insightful feedback” when they are filling out their CATS.

I’ll follow-up in December when it’s CATS time again…

*image from The Chronicle of Evidence-Based Mentoring

Leave a Reply