The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

Broken Feedback Loop: More Student Input Needed

Collaboration is the key to improvement. The environment in a high school brings together an invaluable combination: dedicated teachers and hardworking students. Together these two groups can work to develop even better lesson plans.

The best way to make this happen, especially on a regular basis, is by setting up and planning times when teachers and students can engage in a dialogue which reflects on the previous lesson. This way, the school’s community can work together to improve the quality of our education.
Students often don’t feel like they have a say in the curriculum choices. They assume it’s static, set in stone and their opinion counts for little, so they don’t take time to talk to the teacher.

“In some of my classes, I really disagree with how the teacher handles class time,” sophomore Anica Nangia said. “But, I also don’t feel like there is really a place for me to express my concern, so I usually just complain to my friends. I never really thought I could talk to my teachers to change things.”

This mindset could be changed if we provide a clear avenue for student feedback. The precedent hasn’t been set, so most students simply figure that they don’t have the capacity to bring up issues to teachers and change things. But the school has the power to redefine the roles of teachers and students in the classroom and make them mutually beneficial from their combined involvement. Both have key parts to play.

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Teachers should instigate opportunities for students to give feedback. An example of this practice already in progress is when Science teacher Meghan Shuff spoke to her AP Biology class about testing methods and their effectiveness.

Students in her AP Biology class explained that they didn’t think a written exam was an effective assessment of their lab-based knowledge and that it would not be a fair representation of their work. After listening to their concerns, Shuff decided to try out a lab test, and the day after the test the entire class engaged in a discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of each method.

This period of reflection and assessment allows teachers and students to come together and mutually benefit from the experience of looking back and deciding what worked and what did not.

“I think it’s important [students] are heard,” Shuff said. “I think students learn better by feeling that they’re invested in a class that is taking them seriously. If they’re able to [say], ‘I think this would be a really good idea,’ I can consider it and say, ‘you know, you’re right.’ I don’t have all of the answers.”

Teacher-student collaboration is also important to a teacher’s understanding of students and what environment yields the best understanding of the material.

“If [students] give me feedback and it’s like, we didn’t learn from that, why am I going to do that lesson again?” Shuff said. “I can ask you, what could have been better about that, and it’s just constantly improving my practice … Students help with creating a better learning environment for themselves.”

On the student side, it is important that we work with teachers in this joint venture. Students should be willing to spend time giving meaningful feedback that can actually be useful to teachers, as well as be open to cooperation, a give-and-take process that could ultimately produce results which reward all involved.

“At the end of [AP] Government, we spent time as a class discussing when would be a good time to take the final,” senior Ali Dyer said. “[History teacher April Fritz] presented her argument, and we explained ours, and in the end we worked out what would be best for us as a class.”

Such as in this example, teachers and students working together truly have the potential to strengthen the curriculum at our school. In many ways, the school’s departments are already trying to incorporate student feedback. Many teachers opt to have biannual evaluations, even if they are already tenured, to receive timely feedback on their teaching and performance.

Evaluations give teachers a chance to hear firsthand how students perceive the class and teaching methods.

“You get the real truth, and it’s really really helpful,” history teacher Robert Freeman said. “Maybe I find out I’m not getting the homework back on time, or maybe the workload isn’t even. I do it to keep myself sharp. I do it to make sure that what I’m doing really works for the students, and doesn’t just produce good test scores, but produces happy, engaged students.”

Rather than being an effort made by a few lone teachers, the school should strive to have all faculty members utilize student evaluation. Curriculum shouldn’t be static, and we can all work together to ensure its continual advancement.

Time should be apportioned for all teachers to meet with their students and evaluate their scholastic process. With all these components working together, improvement is inevitable.

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