Fist or Five Feedback

by Allegra Via, Kristian Rother and Pedro Fernandes

How well was your explanation understood? How useful was an exercise? Is your class enthusiastic or frustrated? During a one-week programming course at IGC, Portugal, we asked after each training module:

"How much did you learn during the lesson? Please show one to five fingers. Raise your hands!"

Fist or Five

Then we counted how often each number of fingers occurred. This way, the trainees felt more encouraged to provide critical feedback than if you would simply ask:

"did you understand it or not?"

Not necessarily do trainees utilize all five fingers. Our course participant Patricia commented:

"It is a good feedback and it is immediate. Although I feel sometimes a little bit shy to express my opinion."

The method needs seconds to execute and no preparation, which is a plus for the teacher. But trainees benefit as well. Our course participant Rita commented:

"I like it because it makes me think. It forces me to review and figure out whether I understood the subject or not and how much. It also shows you are interested."

This feedback is not an objective control of students' knowledge; it gives rather an indication of how confident they feel at a given point. You can suggest what a zero or five means by giving a few examples. The fist or five technique has also been recommended as a voting procedure to reach consensus in group discussions. You may test the method after giving a presentation to evaluate yourself.<

The numbers we accumulated over more than a dozen sessions using one consistent method helped us to keep the course on track. The counting itself needed a bit of exercise to do it quickly. When we used the Fist or Five technique for the first time in 2012 with a group of 20 people, we asked for each number from zero to five separately This took a bit longer. For us, the main value of the Fist or Five technique is that it is easy to execute, it is quantitative, it is not stressful, it is immediate and can be repeated many times during a course. We hope you will see lots of 'high fives' in your next course!

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