Quarter Query

As a “specials” teacher of 9 week courses, I get to have the first day 4 times a year. Today was my 2nd first day, with a whole new batch of students. What’s great about this is I have a chance to improve upon my 1st quarter units and lessons. Or completely abandon what didn’t work and isn’t worth fixing. I’m not just making these decisions alone though, because I asked my Q1 students some questions to guide my practice in Q2.

I’ve written a similar post in the past. It has the technical info on how to create a Google Form to collect students’ reflections on their learning and your teaching. I’ve learned some things since then though, and that’s why I’m writing about this again.

This year, I thought to mention to my students that it’s customary in college to take an end-of-course survey to help the teacher make the course better. (I don’t know if that’s what they actually get used for, but it’s a good story.) It makes the kids feel important and valued. All people love to be asked their opinion. I was a little nervous about my 8th graders taking the survey for a chance to be funny and ridiculous, but I was pleasantly surprised by their honest, legitimate critiques and by some of the nice things they wrote that I’m sure they’d have never said aloud to me. They will take it seriously and give you real answers, don’t worry.

It was interesting to see the answers to “What are some things have you learned in this class?” I could see trends in what stood out to them the most and what I taught them that I didn’t really mean to, but that came out naturally in the course of showing them how to use the computers efficiently.

I also loved to see their answers on their most & least favorite part of class, and the optional extended response for “Other Comments”. I had written a post called F Words just before school started, and it contained the goals I have for my class:

  1. Frequently learn useful stuff
  2. Fail forward
  3. Fun
  4. Freedom of choice, and
  5. Freedom from Fear

From the answers given on the survey, I feel like I am on the right track! Students were able to name many specific skills, tools, or processes they learned to use this quarter. A kid wrote about him learning that it is okay to fail (as long as you keep on trying). And there are 17 instances of the word “fun”. The 8th graders especially enjoyed their freedom of choice, and although no one mentioned freedom from fear, I think that’s because fear was absent. I would not know if these F’s were coming across without the survey. Are you meeting your #classroomgoals? How will you find out?

The other questions I asked were “What do I need to improve on?” and “What did I do well?” These questions help me gauge how I am coming across as a teacher. I experimented with my 8th grade class by not giving as many instructions aloud and telling my students to find out what to do by going on their Google Classroom and reading or watching video instructions there, and then I’d answer their questions or help them if they needed it. One student wrote that he wished I would have given more verbal instructions. That’s something I’ll consider for this new group. Some students mentioned they liked the video instructions I gave because they could watch and pause to do each step. So, I will definitely continue to do those.

Honestly, I don’t think once every quarter is too much for any teacher to ask these kinds of questions. Even if you are teaching a year-long course, it’s good to check in with your students. Then, you can make adjustments to make the rest of the year better. You also get the added benefit of the good-will your students will feel toward you for letting them speak their mind, well, type it. I can promise that gathering data about your students’ opinions is well worth it. And fun!

Here’s a list of my questions, in case you want to use them too. All but #7 had paragraph size, open ended response boxes.

  1. What are some things you learned in this class?
  2. Is there anything you WISH you would have learned about this year in this class?
  3. What was your favorite thing about the class?
  4. What was your least favorite part of the class?
  5. What do I need to improve on? What advice do you have for me to be a better teacher?
  6. What did I do well? Like, things I did to help you learn.
  7. How much did you enjoy this class? (Scale of 1-5)
  8. Other comments

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