- First, students have a lot to say, and they want to be heard. Why not give them the opportunity to say how things are going? Students want to be valued and feel like they contribute to the class. Allowing them the space to write about what's working, how the class can improve, and anything else shows them that you care about what they say.
- Second, what students have to say is actually worth listening to believe it or not. Their thoughts can provide great feedback. Unlike other teachers, parents, administrators, or your spouse, your students are the only ones in your classroom day in and day out. They get the full picture. They see it all.
- Third, one of our goals should be to transform our teaching and constantly improve in order to better meet the needs of our students. One way to do that is to respond positively to constructive feedback from our students. They are the ones we are here to serve and it's important that we do what we can to provide the best possible service for them.
What format should the survey be in? What questions do I want to ask students? When should I give it? How can I provide all students a fair opportunity to respond to questions? How can I encourage the students to be honest? How can I take advantage of this opportunity to have the kids self-reflect on their own performance as well as mine?
Of course, depending on the age and readiness levels of the students, the surveys ought to be adjusted to fit the students. For example, for 2nd graders, a survey in which students circle smile faces and frowns to respond, in addition to an open ended comments section may be appropriate. For advanced high schoolers, a completely open ended survey may be appropriate. For 6th graders, I use the survey below. It is one that I slightly adapted from my clinical instructor during my student teaching semester in a high school class. (He was a great clinical instructor and an amazing teacher-- a lot of the strategies I use are inspired by him).
I usually give my surveys once in October and again in January. For my spring semester students (Yes, I teach my students all of the standards in 80 minute periods for just one semester--we move fast!), I give the survey in March and then in late May. I usually give the survey to my students as a Do Now or starter activity right when they enter the room. I want to provide a significant amount of time for students to complete the task. For the students who take too long, I tell them they can bring it back another time.
You will see that there is a place for students to write their names at the bottom of the 2nd page. I don't want students to feel like they need to do this, so I make it optional. At the same time, I tell them that they won't hurt my feelings, I won't take their comments personally, and I encourage them to put their names with their opinions. Most do, some don't.
I also sneak in a few questions about the students themselves that require them to self-reflect on their own performance.
Here is my survey (again, borrowed and slightly adapted from my clinical instructor):
Directions: write the class period and date in the space provided above. Listed below are several statements about this class. Circle your response to each statement in the center column. If you wish to add your own comments, please do so in the space after the item. The more you write, the more helpful the feedback.
In this class, Mr. Piedra generally… Circle One Comments 1. explains clearly the objectives and requirements of the course to students. YesSometimesNo 2. helps me to meet the course objectives and requirements. YesSometimesNo 3. clearly explains how I will be graded in this class. YesSometimesNo 4. encourages and accepts different opinions and questions of students YesSometimesNo 5. provides opportunities for help at times other than during class. YesSometimesNo 6. encourages me to think for myself. YesSometimesNo 7. provides assignments that are meaningful. Please note the most effective assignments. YesSometimesNo 8. provides tests which cover material taught in the course. YesSometimesNo 9. grades fairly. YesSometimesNo 10. keeps me informed of my progress. YesSometimesNo 11. sets high standards and expectations for everyone. YesSometimesNo 12. uses class time effectively. YesSometimesNo
In this class, Mr. Piedra generally… Circle One 13. manages a classroom that minimizes disruption. YesSometimesNo 14. enforces disciplinary rules fairly and consistently. YesSometimesNo 15. makes learning interesting and meaningful. YesSometimesNo 16. uses a variety of resources when teaching class. YesSometimesNo 17. presents material in a variety of ways. YesSometimesNo
In this class, I (the student) generally… Circle One Comments 18. ask for help when I need it. YesSometimesNo 19. feel safe—physically and emotionally—in the classroom. YesSometimesNo 20. feel that I bring a unique and valuable perspective that is both heard and respected. YesSometimesNo 21. understand why we do what we do. YesSometimesNo 22. produce quality work on assignments. YesSometimesNo 23. feel challenged by the content. YesSometimesNo Additional comments:____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Name (optional) _______________________________________________________________________
Students don't usually put comments next to each statement. However, I do feel it's important to give them that opportunity. Sometimes the students differ on their opinions and so the feedback isn't always useful. For example, every time I give this survey some students say they love RAFT homeworks, and others say they hate it (they're usually the ones who don't like any homework). I continue to assign them to everyone. Even if you don't find an ounce of useful information from completed student surveys, the fact that you've given your students an opportunity to share their thoughts sends the message that they are a valued member of your classroom community.
I also provide a survey to my students' parents at the end of the semester...more on that another time...