Student feedback on inquiry

This was the first round of student feedback this semester.  I handed out the “Teacher Skill Sheet” again, but with questions on the front instead of the usual bar graphs.  I wrote it in the style of the applications for reassessment that they have been submitting to me.

“This semester, I am reassessing my ability to teach effectively; the criteria are shown on the back.  My evidence in support of this includes creating learning activities like research, measurement, and making judgements that are similar to the job; making reassessments available so students can improve at their own pace; and recording how students are progressing, not just what they’ve finished.

What aspects of this course help you think, measure, research, and act more like an electronics tech?

What aspects of this course make it harder for you to think, measure, research, and act more like an electronics tech?

Any other comments about the program, the school, or the teacher?”

The responses were very positive — maybe too positive.  I think the wording is too personal; it seemed to elicit a lot of reassurance!  This makes me wonder about how my students are applying for reassessment.  Do they experience the process like a judgment of their humanity?  I do see some evidence of students assuring me that they “will never, ever do it again” rather than explaining how their thinking has changed.

There were a lot of thoughtful comments outside of “all the faculty are very good teachers.”  (Not that I’m complaining about this — just a little worried about whether my students felt truly comfortable writing other things.)  Here are a few examples.


Definitely helps me think more precisely, look for right information, see what I really need or not, measuring with safety, record the result with respect for those who are going to be reading it.

The motivation of being interested in the subject from the beginning.

The right environment and tools to help.

Daily hands-on problem solving and trouble shooting exercises

The Almighty Model Idea

Talking in front of class where you got to know your stuff

Making It Harder

Trying to be on a same page with people that had a fair amount of background knowledge about electronics

Lack of calibration of equipment

I’m glad to see lots of evidence that they “get” why we are spending so much time carefully adding things to the model and presenting info to each other.  We’ve had some pretty tough presentation sessions lately so I was expecting a bit of blowing off steam.

Also, the calibration comment reminds me that my students are obsessed with metrology.  It’s really interesting.  The most consistent topic of questions is “how wrong is the meter.”  They come back again and again to the idea of our measurement instruments, what is going on in there exactly, how we can make them more accurate, how much “off” they are, and how crazy it is that even if we bought the most expensive meter in the world we still couldn’t be sure that it was “right.”  I can’t help feeling that this is an almost spiritual question — that they are digesting some new ways of thinking about what “truth” is and where it does (and doesn’t) come from.


  1. The measurement obsession starts early. I just read a student paper that concludes: “And the square root of sixty-eight was 8.2462. After I used the distance formula, I graphed the points and measure how far apart the points where to make sure the distance formula worked and it did.”

    • I love this student’s attention to whether new ideas are coherent with old ones. I also respect their willingness to hold the math accountable to reality (rather than the other way around). I wish my students did this more often.

      Actually, I wish everybody did this more often.

    • Thanks Brian — there are many blog posts in the drafts folder. It’s been a whirlwind, but I have big plans for catching up on the backlog. Stay tuned…

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