This is a written reflection to, “I find myself repeatedly frustrated by not achieving an unblemished record of expressed student satisfaction for every week of the course” taken from Brookfield’s text The Skillful Teacher.
I realize that pleasing all students at all times is an impossible task. It kind of reminds me of something I teach about: indoor air quality standards. Good indoor air should satisfy 80% of the occupants. Even a good quality indoor air will leave 20% of occupants unsatisfied for one reason or another. It’s kind of like teaching. Even on your best day when everything goes according to plan and it feels like all of the students participated and learned something, some of the students may have been left unsatisfied.
It’s strange then, that being perfect all the time and pleasing every student every class has somehow become an expectation. It really is foolish to think that there won’t be some level of dissatisfaction among students at any given time. There are certainly an infinite number of variables that can cause it. So perhaps making an effort to minimize it as much as possible is a more realistic goal than eliminating it entirely.
Interestingly, this reflection has been written on the heels of last semester’s student survey results. And while the vast majority of my students seemed to have a positive experience, one student clearly had a horrible experience. While this wasn’t a surprise to me, based on how the semester went with this student, I’ve thought long and hard about how things could have been different with that student had I addressed her resistance to learning early in the semester and been more in tune with the emotions involved in the teaching and learning environment.
I decided to investigate how to increase student satisfaction. Hopefully I can determine some ways to minimize student dissatisfaction (and my own dissatisfaction when failing to satisfy all of my students all of the time). In the December 2010 edition of Reflections, published by Queen’s University Belfast, Phil Race, Emeritus Professor at Leeds Metropolitan University, describes a meeting where 50 university professors gathered to discuss student satisfaction. The meeting was called in response to a declining trend in student satisfaction in higher education as determined by the National Student Survey in the UK. While the group of professors pointed out a number of flaws with the survey itself, they went on to identify what “bugs” students and what factors instructors can focus on to transform the student experience in higher education.
While there was a long list of items that “bug” students, the following stood out to me: Slow, or no feedback; Lack of communication/connection between lecturer and student; Not being treated with respect. These items deal with the ‘softer’ side of teaching – the art of teaching – much more than the science of learning, and it is a personal focus of mine to improve in this area before the end of this academic year. There is much room for improvement with respect to responding to student resistance and being sympathetic to the emotions involved in the teaching and learning environment. Hopefully I can prevent another student from having a horrible experience in my class.
Going into the new semester, there are a number of new strategies that I will employ based on the PIDP 3260 – Professional Practice course – and in particular my reading of The Skillful Teacher.
First and most importantly, I believe that I will be ready to expect student resistance to learning and be much more prepared to deal with it than in previous semesters, where I simply jumped to the conclusion that students were bad and lazy. I would like to try to address any resistance to learning on a personal level by meeting with students as soon as possible outside of class to attempt to determine what the resistance is being caused by. This will allow me to address the situation immediately rather than let it fester, which is what got me into trouble last semester.
Secondly, I will use many more feedback tools at various points in the semester to establish better communication and connection with my students. I plan to get and respond to feedback at the end of every lesson. Further, I would like to do a more formal assessment of their satisfaction at the quarter point of the semester. This will lead into a small group instructional feedback session at midterm and conclude with the same quarter-term feedback tool at the end of the semester. Overall, I think this will help the students feel like I respect their collective voice by being willing to listen and respond to it.
Race, P. (2010). Increasing Students’ Satisfaction. Reflections, December, Queen’s University Belfast. Retrieved from https://www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/publications/files/040110.36637.LoRes.pdf
Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass