The Group Instructional Feedback Technique (or GIFT), is a highly effective tool for providing instructors confidential information from their students about how to improve the quality of a course (e.g., Finelli, Ott, Gottfried, Hershock, Neal, & Kaplan, 2008). A GIFT has the advantage of providing the feedback at mid-semester, as opposed to after the semester, engaging students in a discussion about what contributes to their learning and specific suggestions they have for improving learning (as opposed to what they “liked”), and laying the groundwork for a discussion between the instructor and students about maximizing what students learn in the course.
There are several parts to the GIFT process:
A class period in advance of the GIFT session: The instructor informs his/her students that a facilitator from the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) will be asking for their reflections on the class and that it will take about 25-30 minutes at the end of the next class.
The GIFT session:
The CETL facilitator explains that the instructor has invited him/her to meet with the class in an effort to help students get the most from the course. The facilitator also explains that the process is confidential, that all contributions to the GIFT are anonymous, and the results are shared only with the instructor.
The facilitator hands out a sheet of five questions and asks each student to answer them all in about five minutes. The questions are as follows:
- What does the instructor do that helps with your learning?
- What changes/improvements to the course would promote your learning?
- What do you do that facilitates your learning?
- What might you do to improve your learning?
- What is the hardest thing to learn in the class?
After making individual lists, students are asked to get in groups of two or three, and, for another five minutes or so, discuss their answers and come up with a common list. The facilitator then runs through each of the four questions with the entire class, asking groups to report on their deliberations. A student volunteer records the ideas on which there is significant degree of agreement (about half the class or more) and emails the results to the facilitator at the end of class.
A day or so after the GIFT session: The instructor receives the results which have been reviewed and, if necessary, edited for accuracy and completeness and invites the instructor to meet and discuss the GIFT. The following class period: The instructor discusses the results with the students. In many ways, this is the most important stage in the process.
The results are presented in a fairly raw manner, and as such the feedback may be unclear or even contradictory. By opening a dialogue with the students, the instructor can get a much better picture of what is working and what perhaps is not. In a sense, the GIFT is just a means of facilitating that conversation. Results of the two questions about student responsibilities should not be ignored in this discussion. In thinking about the course as a whole, students should certainly reflect on their responsibilities. Often such reflection is aided by hearing the expectations other students have for themselves; expectations that will put their own efforts in perspective.