How to run class retrospectives with students

Written by 
Amy Stefanski
February 14, 2023
A student working on a laptop in a library.
How to run class retrospectives with students
Written by 
Amy Stefanski
February 14, 2023

Many times during a semester, instructors ask, “how might I get my students involved in providing actionable feedback?, and, “how might I teach them effective methodologies for feedback that they could use again in their own work?”

A great way to involve students in a deeper reflection of the “how” and “what” of their learning would be to participate in a high-quality retrospective. Retrospectives are built for more than simple feedback, they guide students by asking pertinent questions that allow for future growth, initiate change, and encourage thinking outside the box. Retrospectives can be used with your students to pause and reflect on how they are experiencing your course, project, or class activities.

Running a retrospective with Mural is easy. You’ll want to ensure that your retrospective is aligned with your goals moving forward and is safe and accessible for students to share their ideas and feedback. Plus, you will always have a shared document that you, or any student, can reference in the future.

3 things to ask while designing your retrospective

1. Which retrospective should I run?

Don’t know where to start? Take a look at these top templates for the classroom: 

Async Retrospective

The async retrospective template provides space for you and your team to collaboratively reflect on a recent project asynchronously. 

I Like, I Wish, I Wonder Retrospective

I Like, I Wish, I Wonder retrospectives will help you understand how to improve your work style by reflecting on what you liked about the current project and what you wish to apply for future projects.

Sailboat Retrospective

The sailboat retrospective framework helps participants to pause and reflect on a work in progress. A sailboat voyage is a useful and memorable metaphor for the journey of completing a project or initiative from start to finish.

Quick Retrospective

Gather a team and quickly look back on work you’ve done together. This simple structure is useful when you want to check in and reflect in a fun and lightweight way.

Better yet, use the area feature to design your own retrospective! Create your own questions for the group to drive future decisions.

2. How do I provide a safe and timely environment for my students? 

Feeling safe to share ideas and thoughts is key to growth. We want to ensure that every student’s voice is heard, and since we also have limited time together, we need to make decisions efficiently.. How do we do that? Mural has built in facilitation features to help with this: 

  1. Private Mode so that all students can work privately on the mural without fear or judgment.
  2. Timer to help students stay on task. Asking students to dive in and provide constructive feedback shouldn’t  be tough, so allow for some extra time.
  3. Vote to get consensus on next steps and how to move forward together.

3. Should I make it asynchronous or synchronous? 

The short answer is, it depends. When students need to be together with you, build in the necessary time into your class so you can complete the retrospective with everyone present (either remotely or in-person). This is where time-boxing is important in order to have the needed space and time for open discussion. Leaving with a sense of completion will be wildly refreshing. 

In some cases, however, students can’t all be in the same space at the same time, physically or digitally. Not to worry — asynchronous retrospectives are great, too. In fact, it can be preferred for remote, hybrid, or ‘hyflex’ classes. When using Mural to create your retrospective, you are able to allow your students to hop in when it works for them. Remember to leave some instructions in the outline to help guide them through the retrospective. You can also leave the mural in Private Mode for the time period you need to allow all participants to contribute anonymously, whether that is an hour, a day, a week, or more!

Related: How async collaboration can solve your meeting problem

Best practices for running retrospectives with students

Here are a few additional best practices to get the most from your students during a retrospective:

  1. Incorporate regular retrospectives to normalize the process and encourage feedback on a ongoing basis
  2. Encourage student-led retrospectives for group projects to identify room for improvement
  3. Use technology to support the process (necessary for async retros)
  4. Be sure to follow up on anything that needs to be addressed both the good and bad — feedback only matters if it’s acted upon
  5. For ease, make them quick using icons, symbols, or pictures
Bonus tip: If you start classes off with an icebreaker, incorporate the retrospective for next the next icebreaker for an extra review!

Video: How to get feedback from students with retrospectives in Mural:

The bottom line

By conducting retrospective activities with students, teachers encourage a deeper understanding of the “how” and “what” at the end of the learning experience. Classroom retrospectives allow students to pause and reflect on their course, project, or class activities and provide valuable insights into their learning process. Using pre-made templates or creating their own can help guide students through the retrospective process. 

This simple yet effective technique provides students with the opportunity to reflect and further support their learning journey.

Mural is free for students and instructors to use in the classroom and discounted for collaboration between faculty and staff.

Check out to get started with Mural and make your classes more collaborative, inclusive, and fun!

About the authors

About the authors

Amy Stefanski

Amy Stefanski

Manager, Education & Nonprofit Programs
Amy Stefanski, MBA is an innovative educational and entrepreneurial advocate. In her role as a manager on the Education and Nonprofits team at Mural, she works to ensure that educators, students, and NGOs are equipped to engage in meaningful, useful, and sustainable conversations with best collaboration practices that include all voices. Her background in education and business gives her a unique perspective as she helps others work toward lasting change.