Surveying the students

About once a semester I like to survey my students. This has two purposes, to see how I’m doing and to find out what they want to do. As Korean high school students they are not really used to having a say in the direction of their learning, so this is a good way of affording them some measure of control and keep them invested in the class.

The short survey asks them to choose the easiest and most difficult lessons from the semester, as well as the most interesting, fun, boring and useful. Then they are asked how much they understand of my speech and the materials, along with their levels of participation in class and group activities. Finally there are some check boxes allowing them to highlight skills they want to practice, possible themes for lessons and types of lessons we could do. Want to have a look? Be my guest: Student Survey

I tried to write the survey as simply as possible, and had a Korean co-teacher in the room to translate. This way there shouldn’t be too many errors generated from students not understanding what they are doing. Also, I stressed the anonymous nature of the exercise and encouraged honesty, so the results should be a true indication of how my students feel.

I’m quietly pleased with the overall interest and fun scores.  This was my primary target this semester. I made a real effort to make my materials and lessons more engaging and maintain interest better. I’ve used music and movies very regularly, in fact almost every lesson has had a video element to it. The usefulness mark is a little disappointing, but I wonder if that is because I’m not teaching toward the all important Korean SAT. The difficulty mark is a bit bizzare. I’ve deliberately pushed them this year with some tough activities, and heard the wails of “어. 어렵다” (Oh. Difficult) in a lot of my classes.  I’m putting this one down to a statistical anomaly, or my kids giving themselves too much credit given their performance in some of the tasks.

I’m also quite pleased with the levels of understanding. Given the range of levels in all my classes, there are inevitably those who hardly understand anything, and those who understand a lot, so to average out here is pretty good I think. It’s another thing I’ve tried to improve this semester, especially using the polite imperative in a more direct style of speech. It’s worked too, as the score was around 50% at the end of the first semester.

As far as my lessons go the overwhelming favourite, most interesting and fun lesson was apparently the one I did on relative pronouns. However, this seems to have had little to do with their liking this grammatical construction, and more to do with the fact that it was illustrated with a selection of cute cat videos. My students clearly put a high value on interesting source material, the second placed lesson in their favourites was based on a clip from Twilight. For me the relative pronouns lesson was one of my worst of the semester, and failed to really get the students working. I suspect that is also why they liked it so much. The students did appreciate that it was more fun than learning though, and very few voted it as their most useful. That honour went to a lesson on the 2nd Conditional featuring a Beyoncé video. I’m trying to move away from teaching prescriptive grammar this year, but the students choosing hints that this style is still a very good fit for Korean learners.

This semester my students seem to want to do a lot of speaking and listening, particularly using drama. I’m not surprised really. I thought one of the best and most enjoyable lessons that we did last year was writing and acting an alternative script for a scene from Up! This lesson garnered a few votes for most fun, but couldn’t keep up with the cute cats sadly. The themes my students want aren’t too surprising. They always want to do something involving food, so this semester may be the one I finally try to tackle a lesson involving cooking. Sport also should be easy to produce a lesson on, but assomeone who is neither fashionable nor keen on shopping I’m a bit stuck for the students other favourites though. I was thinking about an internet based task where they have to dress a celebrity for a certain occasion with a budget. I’d love to hear any other ideas though.

So, do you ever survey your students? Does it tell you anything interesting? Do you think it helps them? I’d love to hear your comments.

I’ll leave the final word to one of my students, who offered a very practical solution to how I could help him to participate more in class. “Give me money.” Student motivation, done.

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One response to “Surveying the students

  1. Pingback: Last Semester’s Survey | The Breathy Vowel

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