I always seek student feedback. I ask for feedback on a specific project and also do a teacher feedback survey at the end of the year. After reading Couros’ book (and the section on how he would do teacher pull-outs) I went back to my feedback that I did last June which I still had and a few of them commented that they would have liked to have done this mid-year so that some of what they said they would change could have been changed or addressed for the rest of the year. So I put 2 and 2 together and back in November/December I created a binder divided into 7 sections for all my classes. Each section is nicely divided with a coloured tabbed divider and each section starts with a class list. I created a series of 17 questions divided into 3 sections for the 3 terms we have at school (See link below). So now I have a binder with 184 pieces of paper with each student’s name on the top.
During a purposely planned day of engaged group/seat work, I pulled the students in groups of 5-7 to an office or vacant classroom. They all thought they were in trouble and this was going to be a stern talking to. I had to laugh as I started to tell them where my head was at for this pull out. I told them that it was threefold – first – to get feedback on me, my class, my teaching style and the content; Second – to get feedback on the school and their lives in and out of school; Third – to try to make their lives simpler and try to help make school more engaging and possibly make some meaningful changes around the school based on their feedback. A sense of calm came over them and they freely opened up to me as I broke the ice with my planned questions and then ensured I gave them an opportunity to provide any other feedback about me, the course or the school. A lot of them went off and started to talk about other subjects and as they did I told them I was more than willing to hear what was happening in other classes but did not want to hear specific names associated with those classes (and if there is only 1 teacher teaching the subject I asked them to be vague about it and only give me the overarching subject – for example I’m the only Law teacher at my school so they would have said Social Studies if they were referring to Law). Some of the findings were eye opening – such as most are working 20-25hrs per week in grade 11 and 12. They all love our new Flex block schedule – see wgss.ca for more info on that. A lot of them feel that they cannot talk to or approach their teachers. That many teachers, although passionate about their subject fall short of actually engaging their students in the subject. And the list goes on.
I took this feedback, pondered what it all meant and have made some innovative and meaningful changes in my teaching (see Making Student Life Simpler – Creating an Assessment Calendar). I have taken a lot of what I read recently (see the Must Reads for Re-Energizing your Teaching) and modified for my purposes. I have revised lesson plans to empower my students to take ownership of their learning (see Lessons to Empower Students). I have touched bases with some of my students and asked for feedback on how I have changed things this week – all have said 100% they love the changes, look forward to what we will do next and are engaged for a longer period of time in the class. One student did say that they were always engaged with my powerpoints, stories and humour but feel that this way she actually remembers the content as she found it and had to understand it, versus me giving it to them.
So I think the value of taking 7 hours of my instruction time, 25 mins of a students instruction time, to get meaningful, authentic feedback has paid off for the positive. I encourage everyone else out there to try to do the same.Student Check in Sheet