I agree with the idea of asking feedback sometime after a course (even years after!) – that would be really valuable. Just because it’s logistically hard to do doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done when possible.
At the end of one of my classes (I ask students to reflect in a presentation to their colleagues about key things they learned and improvements they suggest), some students’ feedback was that they didn’t like being “left alone” so much (when my goal was to promote lifelong learning and autonomy) on something I thought I had actually scaffolded too much! Half the learners (there were just 4 in this) were HAPPY they had struggled and figured things out on their own; the pain paid off and they felt confident they could do this and more on their own; the other half wished I had helped them more. Those are just two groups of people on the path towards lifelong learning, some of whom “got it”, some of whom didn’t… But the feedback of those who didn’t was useful to me – it helped me respond by clarifying again why I had done that, why I would do it again the same way. It’s not that their preferences are not important, but that I think voicing their preference to me and hearing again why I did not meet those preferences was valuable in and of itself… If that makes sense? The whole learner preference thing helps, I think, to make us think about why some approaches in class work better for some than others, and allows us space to consider mixing things up so we’re not constantly privileging one group over another. I don’t always think I know what’s best for my students. I just know why I am doing what I do, while they don’t always understand even when I make it explicit. I hear you about learning being slightly uncomfortable, but the whole ZPD thing has value for adult learning as well… You don’t wanna make learning so uncomfortable that learners drop out, or so comfortable they get bored, and when you have a mix of students (as is the case for most important things we teach)… Well i’m stating the obvious 🙂