Anonymous Notes as Feedback

I got this e-mail from a colleague earlier this year (sharing below with slight edits):

I am writing to ask for your help with my upcoming little research I plan to carry out with teachers in my area. More specifically, after two years of supervising and providing in-service opportunities I am eager to find out the impact of all that I did so far on their teaching performance.

Do you have any suggestions on how such feedback can be collected? Have you ever faced the situation in which you tried to evaluate the impact or effectiveness of your training on teachers’ performance?

Some initial thoughts in reply:

  • creating a culture of offering honest feedback is important (especially when you will be seeing the same people again, and in the culture where relationships are important)
  • teaching how to structure feedback (using the ELC, for example, insisting on ‘description first’ rule, no matter who the feedback is for (students, parents, peers, trainers, etc.)
  • creating a habit to offer/ask for feedback (every session, every week, etc.)
  • ‘owning’ one’s feedback, being ready to sign one’s name (and feeling secure to do so, confident that a listener can open up)
  • culture and habit of acting on feedback (so that teachers saw the effect of what they said)
  • (which often comes to changing one’s own attitude to receiving feedback, being ready to accept it)
  • ultimately, feedback is about mutual trust between you and teachers (so the task for a trainer is to model that for teachers, and potentially, their students)

How it is sometimes done on the training courses I facilitate

Categories are provided on some color cards, and participants write on each of them. They work individually.

  • everyone has a chance to write and ‘be heard’ by the trainers (more chance to learn about the individual ideas)
  • teachers who prefer to mention their name can do so (trainers can offer a follow-up in person)

Same (or different) categories are listed, and participants write on an A-4 poster in pairs (OR a larger poster in a group). Teachers may discuss and agree on the ideas to share.

  • everyone has a chance to discuss the ideas
  • the ‘most important points’ get to paper (more chance to learn about the group ideas/tendencies)

Exit tickets is something teachers do in their lessons, and we trainers can of course borrow this practice. A simple idea: before leaving the room, a form is filled in, but the format can vary) In the image below is a new idea I got from my colleague in Ukraine but have not yet tried in my training:

Online surveys, for example

  • Padlet: very visual immediately, names mentioned
  • Google Form: easy to analyze, e-mail addresses mentioned
  • MonkeySurvey: can be kept anonymous, but the number of questions in the free version is limited

Extra reading

More links, and discussion in the comments (with even more links!)

A couple of non-ELT sources I love: this post from Forbes, and Thanks for the Feedback (a book by HBR authors). 

A hobby of mine is collecting various feedback forms that are not related to ELT world: for example, at a cafe or a restaurant, airlines, travel agencies, banks, etc. 

What are some ideas for collecting feedback from your lessons, training sessions or conference presentations that you have tried and found successful/efficient? Or… vice versa? 

About Zhenya

ELT: teacher educator, trainer coach, reflective practice addict
This entry was posted in Trainer Reflections and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Anonymous Notes as Feedback

  1. Irene Sushko says:

    Hi Zhenya, I have finally found the time to read (or at least to skim) everything you’ve recommended in your post. I’ve got a few things on my mind based on the readings and my experience with collecting feedback.
    To begin with, there is no culture of asking for or giving feedback in Ukraine. People think feedback=criticism, which is so not true. Perhaps it has something to do with our old system of education which influenced our mentality. When I ask for feedback I don’t want people to criticize me, I expect them to tell me what went well and what didn’t.
    When you ask people to fill in a feedback form (and that’s my experience lately) they will tell you about good things and skip things that need improvement. But as one of your posts and comments afterward state, we benefit more from comments about improvements rather than “good, great, the best”. I am smart enough to understand that my session was not the best and I need my audience to tell me why.
    Anyways, after my last session and reading about “good, great, the best” I had to sit down and think about the workshop step-by-step and write down everything I thought didn’t go quite well.
    I used to be scared of feedback, not any more (may be just a bit). If I position myself as an expert in something I need to know about both my strong sides and my weak ones.
    Perhaps I need to think of some other ways to collect feedback from the audience. I really like your idea with post-it notes. I do it with my students but we spent weeks practicing leaving constructive feedback, luxury I don’t have with my trainees.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Zhenya says:

      Hi Irene
      Thank you for this conversation! So much to think about in what you wrote.

      First of all, agree that the idea ‘feedback=criticism’ is true in our culture. Moreover, it is true for (most) people who offer feedback, and those who receive it. It is actually true to the point when there is no direct criticism, teachers may think that… there was no feedback at all. On the other hand, knowing that it is about ‘criticism’ some of us may come ‘prepared’, in other words, ready to ‘fight back’ and defend what was ‘right’. In any case, not so helpful for growth and improvement (not taking into account the hurt feelings)

      Also, agree that attendees of a conference session prefer to say “good, great, the best” rather than provide some more substantial thoughts. In one of my older posts I wrote about reading feedback from a session, and how interesting/different it was to see what people wrote a couple of days after it was delivered.

      Finally, what you said here is important: ‘I had to sit down and think about the workshop step-by-step and write down everything I thought didn’t go quite well.’ As you know, I believe in the power of reflection and reflective thinking, and therefore think that what you can see after the experience is very important for the future growth. Having feedback from others is helpful, too (for example, I learned a lot from discussing Olga’s session, and we even shared a post together:

      I wish I had attended your session in August! And… would appreciate your feedback to my small plenary, too! Sometimes I see myself as ‘reflection junkie’ (and not sure this term exists!)



      • Irene Sushko says:

        Hi Zhenya, I have to say that I am really enjoying our conversations. They make me think a lot about my teaching and training experience (both as a trainer and a trainee).
        Speaking about your session(s) (I think I’ve been to 3 or 4 already) – what I really like about them is that they have a very clear structure and logic. It is easy to follow everything you’re saying. The last one was no exception. And I also liked your intro/warm-up/ice-breaker during the last session (made a note to myself).
        Your sessions are what I personally call ‘higher-lever’ sessions. Let me explain – there are two categories of teachers who go to conferences and attend workshops – those who are looking for a bunch of practical, ready-to-go activities to use in class the next day and those who are interested in more than just practical tips (those who are interested in theories, new trends, interested in talking to like-minded people and making friends). This second category is your audience – people who are willing to look into or beyond their own teaching and reflect and compare and question, etc. So your last session was interesting for this second category, perhaps.
        I understand that your session was just to introduce the program, to sparkle interest or so but I would agree with the ‘proposal committee’ (you mentioned in your other post) that it lacked the specifics. The application date is still far away and people might forget about the program unless they are really motivated to participate. Perhaps you could emphasize the objectives and the outcomes of the program for each individual participant. I am taking this online course now and this week we are focusing on ‘cascading your knowledge’, i.e. that is sharing your knowledge and experience with your colleagues. In my opinion, not everyone understand the value or the benefits of sharing. Teachers look at trainers as ‘experts who know everything’ which is not true (we’ve already established that). Very often talented professionals don’t realize they can be the ones sharing and training. Perhaps, your intended program is for such teachers as well. And their awareness needs to be raised to attract their attention to such an initiative.
        I hope it makes sense:) At least it does in my head:)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Zhenya says:

          Thank you for the comment Irene, and for the time to offer your thoughts and feedback on the session. Really, really appreciate it and see it as my learning opportunity. Thank you.
          You are right that the objectives of the session were to ‘introduce the program’ and ‘to sparkle interest’, and there was another one (my own) to see if it was the right kind of audience in the room. I think they were achieved, as I saw the show of hands at the end of the session, had at least five extended conversation about it during the day, and about 12 new ‘friend requests’ on FB with the same question. I hope some people saved the handout with the objectives of the program.
          I agree that it was perhaps too early to spread the word, since the start is December and it is ‘far away’ in time. On reflection, I would have not presented at all, waited till October-November and give it a go. Selfishly though, I was curious if teachers would be interested (and secretly hoped they would start passing the info to the colleagues they know who may want to take the course)
          We shall wait and see. Meanwhile, I am working on making the course overview and application process more and more specific, so that the next round looks clear (and still attractive!)
          Till another great chat!


  2. Sandy Millin says:

    Hi Zhenya,
    Feedback is one of the things I want to incorporate more into my classes and our CPD at school this year. It’s also something I’ve been reading about for the NILE Trainer Development course. I suspect you’ve probably seen Silvana Richardson and Gabriel Diaz Maggioli’s Cambridge paper on ‘INSPIRE’ as a model for effective CPD: They mentions Guskey’s model as part of it, something which I’ve heard her talk about but haven’t yet explored, so thanks for the link. After seeing Silvana speak in January, we started to hand out short feedback forms at the end of workshops at school with questions like:
    – What did you learn in today’s session?
    – What will you use from the session in your lessons next week?
    – What do you still have questions about?
    – What should we change?
    – What should we keep the same?
    We’ve learnt a lot from these, and I feel like our workshops have improved as a result.
    Thanks for sharing your ideas,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Zhenya says:

      Hi Sandy

      Thank you for the comment, and for the link to Silvana and Gabriel’s paper. I remember watching the session online and find the framework they offer clear and helpful.
      Love the simple way (routine, looks like?) to collect feedback from the teachers. Is it a part of CPD at the IH I assume? If so, I like how it ‘walks the talk’ and offers them a chance to take part in the process of PD. If they take turns in running such sessions themselves, it gives a structure and confidence that there will be a follow up. Discussions like this make me miss the school times! 🙂


      • Sandy Millin says:

        Each IH is different, but it’s one of the things we do at our school. Aiming to get teachers as involved as possible in their own CPD, and integrate all the different strands a lot more this year. I keep trying to encourage them to present too – generally manage to persuade some of them that they can do it by their second year, but most of them lack the confidence in themselves to do it before that. Will keep trying though 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Zhenya says:

          We did that a lot in our school. You are right, each IH is different. Our school had a lot of local teachers who were super experienced and able to deliver amazing PD sessions for the colleagues.
          Newer teachers’ enthusiasm is very inspiring, from my experience. Have fun this year!

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Peer Feedback Tips | Wednesday Seminars

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