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ASK, NOT TELL

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Getting feedback during a class

Updated: Mar 13



I spend my Chinese New Year holiday in Shanghai this year.  As usual, I feel like being in the war zone here during the Chinese New Year – the firework is everywhere.  The atmosphere is the strongest on the new year eve and the day 4 of the Chinese New Year.  (On day 4, people are supposed to receive the god of fortune by playing firework. As such, the businessmen generally spend a lot on day 4 on firework.)  Anyway, back to the topic….


Before the Chinese New Year holiday, a few colleagues and I reviewed the learning from Dr Rothwell’s classes.  We talked about course evaluation.  Normally when we talk about evaluation, it is about end of class evaluation – e.g. the famous Kirtpatrick 4 levels of evaluation.   However, some raised a question on that day ”How to get feedback on your class before it finishes?’  This is a valid question especially for courses of longer duration e.g. over 1 day.  It makes sense to check how the learners think and – the course as much as possible.


Here are some interesting thoughts we came up:


Just ask them – It is always an option.  In fact, we should not forget this option.  But sometimes we do commit this mistake.  We continue to talk, talk and talk without at least asking the learners how they feel.


Ask them tactfully – If we ask for feedback openly, the feedback is likely to be a polite (and thus not informative) one.  This is especially the case in the Asian environment. We got to do it tactfully.  For example, I learn a method from Sharon Bowman – Ask the learners to position their hands in front of their chests.  If they are very satisfied with [say, speed of delivery], raise 5 figures.  If they are very unsatisfied, raise only 1 figure.  They will probably be more frank since they are expressing privately.  With that, you can then get a quick feedback with whatever question you ask.


Keep a feedback wall – Another way is to post a flipchart where the learners can write their feedback on.  You can keep it blank or post a few questions for them to answer.  Preferably, the flipchart should be posted at place where the learners can write without anyone seeing it.  For example, you can post it on the side of a whiteboard which faces the wall.


Talk to a few – Identify 2-3 whom you believe to be expressive and can represent the others (or pick randomly).  Invite them to observe and stay behind on say day 1 to give you feedback.  Most will be more comfortable to tell you more in a small group setting.  And they will feel honoured for your invitation.


Hide yourself in the toilet – It is the most extreme measure!   Some said that the comment exchanged among the learners during the first tea break is key to the success of a course.  So, once you announce the tea break, you should run to the washroom and hide yourself there, you will hear the most frank (and brutal) comment from the learners!!

If you try out some, let me know how it go!!

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