Hot Spots: don’t wait until the end of the semester for student feedback.

hot spotsMy inner voice upon reading student evaluations of my courses at the end of each semester: “Aw, man. I wish I’d known about these issues earlier.”

Assessments go into 2 categories: Formative: low stakes quizzes and “dipsticking” to see if students are on track; to give us a “heads up” for students who need intervention or additional support. Summative: the final exam. In many schools, teachers get a summative assessment in the form of course evaluations. But it’s hard to do anything about it by the end of the semester. After four months, we’re locked into our habits: good and bad. Whatever troubles our bad habits have cause are entrenched. Lets do formative assessments on ourselves! Low stakes, simple, easy check-ins!

Hot Spot Check-in


Just as a “hot-spot” is a place where your shoe is rubbing and about to form a painful blister, a hot-spot is something you’re doing (or not doing) in class that students want to bring to your attention.

I use Socrative every three weeks for this purpose. It takes three minutes to do, builds trust, and allows you to improve your practice month by month, and not just year by year.

One note on anonymity. I have always been a fan of feedback with names. (For an interesting article on the down-side of anonymous e-feedback, click here).

Before the first hot-spot check in, I speak with the students about the goal of the check in. I tell them I hope to gain their trust so that they can be honest with me, that no harm will come from sharing their experiences, and that they are assisting me in my growth – as I assist in theirs. We talk about my response to the check-in. I may offer more support, “parking-lot” the complaint to see what happens down the road, or immediately change my approach.

It also allows me to send an email like this:

Dear (student) Thanks for the honest and open feedback today!

Would you like to come in for an apt. so I can give you clarification on: (insert issue here)?

Q: Students and teachers learn and teach each other?

A: You betcha.

If you would like access to a Google Form version of the Hot-Spot Check in (to copy and adjust for your own needs), click here.