Professors Passionate about Learning from Students and from Each Other
In a recent virtual panel discussion, several of the University of New Haven’s best professors came together to discuss how they use student feedback to enhance their teaching while continuing their own learning.
November 18, 2020
By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
Mary Isbell, Ph.D., is passionate about education, and she endeavors to learn as much from her students as she teaches them. This approach has been particularly important as many classes, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, now include an online component.
An English professor, Dr. Isbell regularly adjusts and adapts her courses each semester as she gets to know her students to ensure she is meeting their needs. She recently shared with her fellow faculty members what she has learned while teaching remotely.
“I want feedback from my students and I want to meet them where they are,” she said. “I want to push my students to become the kind of learners I want them to be.”
The panelists discussed meaningful ways, including regular check-ins and mid-semester evaluations, for faculty members to collaborate with students to learn what is working well in a course and what students would like to change. These opportunities enable students to provide meaningful feedback on everything from the pace of a course to the workload. Professors also emphasized the importance of regularly checking in on students’ well-being.
“I like to close the loop – I always share the data I gather with my students,” said Jenna Sheffield, Ph.D., interim director of the Center for Teaching Excellence who moderated the discussion. “I tell students what I’ve found and what I’m going to do with their feedback.”
‘What we’re doing is creating self-reflective practitioners’
Matthew Schmidt, Ph.D., a professor of national security and political science, discussed his approach to cultivating engagement in the classroom. Encouraging students to use feedback to learn from each other, he often does “public grading,” using humor and games to help students feel comfortable while evaluating themselves. He encourages self-reflection and hopes to go beyond the course content to promote social and emotional learning.
“What we’re doing is creating self-reflective practitioners,” he explained. “The goal is to get students to pay attention to themselves, to look at what they are learning and why.”
Maria-Isabel Carnasciali, Ph.D., has found her students’ feedback to be especially crucial as she has taught hybrid classes this semester. A mechanical engineering professor, she conducted an exercise with students in multiple sections of a course in which they downloaded an educational app to their phones. She then followed up with them to learn what they thought of the approach, using their feedback to continue to shape the course.
“Just because something works for me and I figure it out doesn’t mean it is working for the students,” she said. “Feedback is key, and I make it a priority to incorporate having students reflect on what is working for them.”