Course Confessions


University “Confession” Facebook fan pages are not new to the world of social media. These public Facebook fan pages are an anonymous venue for all to share their experiences at the university and receive feedback or support from the community without exposing your identity. Posts from the unofficial UH Confessions facebook fan page might be funny in nature…


… Or advice regarding test anxiety…


… Or relationship decisions …


Unfortunately, as with many good intentions, it only takes a few inappropriate posts and loose moderation habits from the administrator for the content to quickly become adult in nature. But I liked the concept and developed a strategy to successfully incorporate comments and suggestions within university courses as ongoing formative feedback.

My first pilot occurred during the Summer 2015 semester. A gracious and brave instructor (struggling with student feedback and engagement within a graduate course) loved the idea and gave it a try. Received anonymous student comments were shared at the start of each class session to encourage discussion, course modifications, or assignment improvements throughout the semester. Some confessions received were:

that quiz was too hard

I loved the game we played on Thursday. I would have stayed for another hour just to play and answer more questions; it was that entertaining! That class left me very optimistic about the rest of the summer

Applying distributed learning improves studying. Would you be willing to share the final study guide now? The final is just a couple weeks away

The confession idea is great, all professors should do this.

The Course Confessions concept was a major success! Students enjoyed the opportunity to share their honest thoughts without concern of an exposed identity. Course Confessions gave the instructor the benefit of addressing student concerns immediately or asking for further clarification without waiting for the generic end-of-the-semester course evaluations to be completed. Having an open and honest conversation with students demonstrated the value of their feedback.

The following semester (Fall 2015), Course Confessions was incorporated within an undergraduate course with the same positive experience and has been implemented ever since.

How I Did It

Create a Private Online Form

conf-6Make your form accessible to only your students. To do that, I created a Google Form and linked it within a Blackboard course – which allows only students enrolled in the course access to the anonymous confession form. Other form platforms may include Microsoft 365 Forms, SurveyMonkey, or Qualtrics. Any online form tool will work if it can be accessed by a URL link and does not require students to login with an account. The form itself simply needs to contain the words “I must confess…” with a text response box and submit button. No other information is required. Keep it simple and inviting.

Note. All UH employees and enrolled students have free access to Microsoft 365 tools via AccessUH.


Notify Students

Inform students of the Course Confession link within the Blackboard course and establish ground rules of use. Such as:

  1. Do not include any identifiers if a confession has to do with a class colleague.
  2. All confessions must be about the course.
  3. Confessions will be shared with the class to promote use of the form and discussion opportunities.
  4. No profanity.
  5. The instructor reserves the right to remove any identifiers or choose not to share the confession if it is not related to the course.

Review and share confessions

Review confessions to ensure it does not break any established ground rules. If a ground rule is broken, remove the adult language or any identifiers to allow the confession to still be shared with the class.

conf-7Create a PowerPoint slide with the confession text and display at the start of class. Read the confession out loud and encourage the class to share any input, feedback, or suggestions. I highly recommend the use of images or memes to keep the class atmosphere light in nature.


Keep notes of class responses

An important teaching practice is to keep records of course improvements or suggestions received throughout the semester. Listen and take notes of your students’ responses to confessions. Review notes to assist in any course modification decisions in the very near future. You might be surprised that students may defend your class often.


Things to note before implementing

  1. Take confessions in stride. Thick skin, a smile, and a fun professional personality can help relieve any uncomfortable situations. Remember, you might be surprised how often students may defend your class.
  2. Involve the class regarding possible solutions. Demonstrate that their voice is valued and appreciated.
  3. End confession discussions on a positive note. It will encourage students to continue the use of Course Confessions – especially when they witness your willingness to hear suggested improvements.
  4. Take time and search for images or memes that represent the confession. Try to keep the experience fun for students and for yourself.
  5. Enjoy the humor of your students. Not all confessions will be negative. Some confessions may be more of an observation than a confession. Humor in the classroom is one of the easiest way to keep students engaged.
  6. Use the same confession form for different sections of the same course. I found it convenient and easier to manage and it provided a sense of relief for students that confessions were also from different sections – creating a more established anonymous atmosphere.
  7. Course confessions have been implemented in face-to-face and online courses ranging from 7 to 30 students. Auditorium courses will most likely have a larger number of confessions per week. I would recommend combining similar confessions together to save time during class discussions.

Implementing Course Confessions has been one of the most effective methods to increase student feedback and engagement. I share the advice expressed in an online article titled, “Benefits of Talking with Students about Mid-Course Evaluations.” In it Maryellen Weimer concludes:

… The story students need to hear is one where teacher and students share and respond to feedback that describes how learning is happening in a course. That story begins during the course, not at its end. It solicits descriptive information about specific aspects of the course, not global evaluations. The results are shared, discussed, and acted upon collectively, and now we’re on the way to a story with a happy ending.


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