“Self-evaluation takes courage”

Jochen Kerschenbauer, industrial engineer and entrepreneur to be, is one of the first employees at the University of Technology (TU) in Graz to use feedbackr for his lectures. We met him to find out why he does. A talk about tired brains, courage and the soccer community.

How did you find out about feedbackr and what made you think it might be useful for you?

Jochen: A colleague showed it to me, and I was interested from the get-go – I’m always curious to try new things. Otherwise, teaching is always pretty much the same: You go in, you tell something to someone, then people pose a couple of questions (and by the way, it’s always the same handful of people) and that’s it. So when I saw the possibility to do things a little differently, and also in a more structured way, I figured I’ll try it and find out how it works for teaching.

Do you use feedbackr primarily for questions on the subject matter or also to evaluate your class?

Jochen: Both, actually, though the focus is on feedback for the quality of the lecture itself. There is a “classic” evaluation tool at TU Graz, but you only get feedback once a year and the questionnaire is so time-consuming the response rate is usually about 5 to 10%.

The bonus of feedbackr is – people are already there, and they have time! If you send out a link, there are always excuses, but if you get your students right in the room where you’re teaching, they’re much more inclined to give feedback. I mean, they’re on their phones anyway, right? (laughs) It also makes for great variety: Whenever I have the feeling everyone’s brain is packed to the brim, I use feedbackr to arrange a break and give a new impulse. It really helps people’s concentration. And it’s very helpful for me to know very basic things: Is my voice too quiet, did you understand what I was talking about, that kind of thing.

What’s crucial is that you don’t “overdo” it, so students don’t get tired of it, and that you include the questions in your given lecture time. If you finish in time and then ask everyone to stay 5 more minutes to answer your questions, that’s not going to work.

So 5 minutes are enough?

Jochen: Yeah! The questions are prepared anyway, so all I do is give out the link. What’s important to me is that we go through the results afterwards. Which takes courage, of course! (laughs) If 95% would vote that your lecture has been dull, that can be embarrassing, but you need to be able to learn from it. I also use the app to find out which of my examples were comprehensible and which weren’t.

Jochen on the rooftop terrace of TU Graz with a coffee, looking into the distance
Looking into the sun: Jochen Kerschenbauer, on the rooftop terrace of TU Graz, thinks curiosity and open-mindedness are crucial for teachers these days.

How do your students accept the tool? Are many of them hesitant to use it or find it too much of a hassle?

Jochen: Well I guess, some do, but there’s usually a response rate of 50% to 75% – which is pretty good, especially compared to the classical method.

Besides Controlling and Accounting you are also teaching Rhetorics and Presentation. What do you think – is an app such as feedbackr going to have an influence on the way people give or should give presentations? Are you more “under attack”? Or is technology more and more demanded to keep their attention?

Jochen: That’s a good question! I think evaluating your own presentation right afterwards is something that takes courage. But it makes sense because you want your lecture to be successful and, if it was not, you want to find out why people feel this way.

At conferences and the like, where there’s presentation after presentation, I think it’s the best for you to stand out. I found that out at my last lecture in Istanbul: I went there with my presentation on a USB drive which I had of course checked back home, but when I plugged it in – it just didn’t work. So I improvised and developed the lecture with a whiteboard and the support from the audience. Then you notice how people appreciate it when it’s not a head-on, one-sided performance that tends to overwhelm them, but when they are involved. Many people even approached me afterwards and told me that they enjoyed it and appreciated the time to think about inputs, not just take them in the run.

So I think, as soon as you’re doing something else, something that others don’t have, the content of your lecture is much more memorable.

Will we find feedbackr more and more in use at universities in the future?

Jochen: Sure, why not? For some people, it will never work and they will always stick to what they’ve been using for decades. But I think that overall, it’s a great tool that helps teachers engage students and do better work at teaching themselves.

Last question – you are currently developing a voting and gaming app for soccer fans. What’s the story behind this?

Jochen: Well, we observed that soccer clubs have their little societies and their hundreds of fans, but they never work with each other. Say, 15 000 people are coming to the stadium and there’s no way for them to really communicate or participate. So we figured – why not make it a game? Our app is a combination of games, bets and social interaction. The idea is to build teams, spark ambitions with a reward-based system and make up a larger soccer community.

Thank you for your time and all the best with your vision!