How to get feedback from students in the language classroom

Getting the students actively engaged in a conversation is a big goal all language teachers bear in mind when they plan their language lessons. There’s nothing worse than asking for feedback or for a contribution and getting crickets! The question is: how to get feedback from students in order to strike up a genuine conversation in the language classroom?

In this article I’d like to answer that question. My contribution tap into the 3Ps, on one hand, and the suggestopedic approach, on the other hand.

 

This article at a glance:

  • Overview: my approach to getting feedback from students
  • How to make getting feedback from students possible: preliminary setting
  • How to get feedback from students to strike up a conversation in the language classroom: facilitating the conversation
  • How to give feedback: following up on the conversation and making the most out of it

 

Overview: my approach to getting feedback from students

In my view, when we go through the process for getting feedback from students, we ought to bear in mind 3 stages:

  1. Preliminary setting: what makes getting feedback possible
  2. Facilitating the conversation: how to get feedback from students to strike up a conversation and how to constructively address the students’ contributions
  3. Follow up: how to give feedback.

 

How to make getting feedback from students possible: preliminary setting

Conversations in the language classroom are not that different to any other common conversation. If you think about it, a conversation begins and flows when the circumstances and the setting are just right. That’s why is so important to take care of the preliminary setting in the classroom. If the students don’t feel free to express themselves, they feel judged or under pressure, you can bet the conversation will die soon.

The most important thing a language teacher can do to get the students to take part in the conversation is to create the right learning environment for that to happen.

How can they do that? Here the suggestopedic approach comes in. In the guide you can download here below you’ll find some practical tips you can easily implement to create a welcoming learning environment:

 

The guide provides you with what you need to create make everyone feel safe, welcome and at ease in your classes. That’s what I mean by the right preliminary setting.

You can find more ideas in this article, too: GO TO How to create a welcoming learning environment in the classroom

 

How to get feedback from students to strike up a conversation in the language classroom: facilitating the conversation

Let’s say you have taken good care of the learning environment and your students feel happy and at ease when they join in your lessons. Good on you! Now, what shall we do to actually strike up a conversation? Furthermore, assuming we got the conversation to get started (good job!), what shall we do to nurture it?

Here is where the 3P model comes in to help. By 3Ps we mean: pose, pause, pounce.

In short, that means:

  • Posing a question
  • Pausing to allow some time for the students to think about the question
  • Pouncing on a student for his/her answer

Now, I’d like to give you a few suggestions when it comes to implement the 3Ps.

 

Pose

When you pose a question, try to ask open-ended questions. Avoid closed-ended questions (yes/no type of questions). You can find out more about open-ended questions (what they are and examples) in the guide I linked above. Again, you can download it here:

 

Pausing

Once you have posed a question, you shall allow a few seconds for the students to elaborate it and come up with and answer. How much time shall you allow? In this interesting and well curated article, Jonathan Sandling says recent studies indicates 10-20 seconds are the ideal time frame teachers should allow the students to think about a question.

Hence, don’t fear the silence! I know you may feel 10-20 seconds like it’s too much time. From the students’ perspective, though, it is what it takes to elaborate their thoughts.

In my experience, I find it helpful to communicate the time given for reflection, so that my students know they’ll have 10 or 20 seconds to allow everyone to think.

 

Pouncing

Time for reflection is over and it’s time to share the answers. In this phase, you want to ask a student to share his/her point of view.

The suggestopedic approach comes in, again. What’s the most effective way to ask the students to share their answers? You’ll find more details in the guide I’ve already suggested to download above. In a nutshell, I suggest to use the invitation formula.

In the invitation formula, you choose a student and ask her/him to share her/his thoughts by using a welcoming, calm and gentle voice. For instance: would you like to share your opinion with us? Would you like to share your answer? Would you like to say what you think about the topic?

As you’ll learn in the guide, do not insist on a student if she/he doesn’t feel ready for sharing. You’ll ask someone else. Later, you may want to get back to that student.

Here is the guide, again:

 

Bounce

To complete the 3Ps model, the very final stage is called bouncing. By bouncing, we mean asking another student. In this phase we want to keep the conversation flow going and get everyone engaged with the debate.

As a consequence, you want to ask the same question to another student, or to ask another student for his/her opinion about what the first student said. You want the students to comment on others’ ideas, to build upon them. To spice the conversation up, you could even challenge the students to try to persuade the others to change their mind.

 

How to give feedback: following up on the conversation and making the most out of it

This stage is particularly relevant to language teachers. In fact, language teachers need to tap into the debate to take out linguistic material they can use as an opportunity for consolidating the students’ language skills.

At the end of a debate or conversation, I ask myself: what are the 3 key takeaways my students should really go home with today? What do they need to solidify? What do they need to absorb, polish or fix?

I give them feedback in a structured way, as per the free guide you’ve downloaded above and that you can find here (yes, I really want you to take it! Ha-ha-ha!):

 

 

Wrapping up

The answer to the question how to get feedback from students is in a 3-step framework:

  • Firstly, creating the conditions for the students to feel at ease in engaging with a conversation in class
  • Secondly, getting the conversation started and facilitating it through the 3P model
  • Ultimately, using the linguistic material the conversation brought up for providing the students feedback.

Good luck on your next conversations!

16th August 2022
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