What do our students really know? What do they hear? What do they think. Teachers need to know this information. Exit cards are one way to find out.

Every day, we face students in our classrooms. How often do we ask them how well we (or they) are doing? Why do some of us wait until the end of the year to ask for evaluations from our students about our teaching? Why are we chained to the oft-dreaded feedback from a supervisor’s formal evaluation (often a dog-and-pony show that has little to do with what we do everyday)? Why are we hesitant to invite colleagues to observe and critique our teaching?

Exit Cards can help us break through this lack of effective feedback and help us improve our teaching. They are quick to use. We simply pass out index cards, ask for questions or comments, and collect them. I first learned about Exit Cards from Grant Wiggins when he shared a story about a teacher who used them every Friday. We can use them after a lesson, a unit of study, in the middle of a block period—any time we want.

When using Exit Cards in my workshops with teachers, I usually ask two questions, one for each side of the card, such as:

“What worked for you today?”; “What question do you need an answer to?”; “I like …” and “I wish …”; “What do you think was the big idea of today’s lesson?” or “What question do you have?” And simply, “Anything I need to know to teach better or help you learn?”

…Exit Cards work because they’re immediate and anonymous. Certainly, we might receive anomalies, as I did from a disgruntled participant who did not want to attend my professional development workshop in the first place: “I like that this workshop is over,” he wrote. “I wish that we did not have any more.” Interestingly enough, when I shared this comment, people immediately recognized who wrote it; eventually, I was able to befriend this person and hopefully was able bring him into the mix of the conversation…

I wish I had used them with my students. Had I done so, I would have assigned a specific color to each class, or to each subject area in a self-contained classroom; the different colors would have made it easier to focus on each class or subject. While some students would surely have dismissed them, I imagine most comments would have yielded valuable insights. Overall, they would have provided me with consistent feedback.

What do you think about this approach Do you have other ideas for receiving student feedback?

For more ideas about how to make meaning see Chapter 6 in Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting students to Learn from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Middle-Room-Frank-Thoms/dp/0615358918.

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