Between January and May 2022, 49 Florida math teachers from across the state participated in Impact Florida’s Solving with Students Cadre. The Cadre piloted an innovative approach professional learning that used student feedback to improve the classroom learning experience. Teachers surveyed their students using a free tool, Elevate by PERTS, analyzed the results, and learned and implemented new teaching strategies.
The New Teacher Center conducted an independent evaluation of the cadre, which showed significant improvement in student experience.
We also wanted to gather qualitative feedback directly from students about the experience.
So in May, Impact Florida staff members took a trip to Q.I. Roberts Junior/Senior High School in Putnam County, where three Q.I. Roberts math teachers participated in the cadre. We were able to observe several classrooms in action, and we also held focus groups with two groups of students, grades 8-12, in which we gathered honest, anonymous feedback about the cadre.
Below are some key takeaways from the student focus groups and what students shared in their own words about the experience of providing feedback to teachers.
Students felt the surveys enabled all students to participate in giving feedback, not just the most outspoken students. The anonymous nature of the feedback was important to them.
“We have no fear on the surveys since we’re all anonymous. This is really a good collective source of student voice.”
Students felt valued and heard when teachers shared the survey results with them and asked for their ideas and input.
“If teachers go over their results with you and they actually take what you want into consideration and listen to the results, I feel as though that goes into a positive relationship in a classroom where you can actually trust your teacher.”
Students interpreted teachers’ interest in student feedback as a sign of caring. Students said it was motivational to know their teacher cared about their experience and was working to improve it.
“It’s kind of a psychological thing with students…I think having the ability to give feedback is like, ‘Okay, if you’re going to try to make a difference in your classroom for me to learn best, then I’m going to try to make that difference to make your life easier, and try to do the math, as well.”
“Meaningful work,” one of the student experience indicators mentioned in the survey, meant different things to different students and in different contexts – students talked about several themes, including math’s connection to real-world applications, more general skills such as critical thinking, as well as tasks within the math class that felt more engaging, such as group work.
“[Our teacher] saw that meaningful work was the lowest one, so he gave us an assignment. What does meaningful work mean to you? And he took that and was like, ‘Okay, well if you guys think group work, working together, that’s meaningful to you, I’m going to implement it so you can see if that’s what you mean by meaningful work.’”
Students felt that making student feedback a more regular part of teaching practice could improve classroom experience.
“I feel like it would be beneficial to all teachers, in the long run, to see feedback on their teaching methods. Because at the end of the day, everyone can improve somewhere, and I think this clearly paints out where improvements are needed.”