Last Semester’s Survey

City Refraction, City Reflection

Time for a little reflection (and refraction(?)) (Photo by http://www.flickr.com/photos/lrargerich/)

Wow. It’s been a while since I last posted. I think the blogosphere in general has been quiet of late with everyone off on their summer holidays. I spent half of my two week holiday finishing off my MA project (separate post on that to come I hope), but did manage to sneak across Asia for a week in Thailand once it was done.

Now, suddenly, I’m back at my desk with a whole new semester stretching out in front of me. As ever, I’m wondering quite what, where and how to approach it. Part of my semesterly reflection is to survey the students to see what they thought of the classes. In the past I’ve used a more statistical approach  but inspired by Ceri Jones’ idea  this time I tried to collect more qualitative data. Below is my version of the survey:

End of Semester 3 Survey

This approach produced mixed results – allowing the students space to comment on the good and the bad, as well as what they wanted to learn provided some interesting feedback. However, asking them to remember activities proved problematic (obviously my classes weren’t that memorable) and so any time any student thought of something it was immediately seized upon by those around them, and so skewed the results.

Nevertheless, there were some interesting findings. Unsuprisingly, most were memorable for being fun, with post-it sticking  and drawing scoring highly. More unexpected was the popularity of a taboo style game (part of this lesson) where students had to convey -ed and -ing forms to their team-mates. A three week history project as part of my MA project culminating in teams of students trying to convince me of the importance of a historical event got mixed reviews, with almost everyone finding it difficult, and being split on whether it was useful or detestable.

The second half of the survey provided a bit more insight into what the students thought, and produced what I thought were more useful data. The two things that seemed most important to the students were the chance to participate and co-operate more in class, and the desire to learn to speak. There were some really interesting comments, such as “I’m not sure what the purpose of the class is” (sometimes neither am I) and a request that I improve my Korean so that I can use it more in class (probably not going to happen).

The participation aspect is something I need to refocus on. I do try to make sure that everyone has the chance to participate, but the variation of levels (low-intermediate to zero) make it tough. Mostly I try to combat this with group work, with the better ones helping the weaker ones, but I need to recognize that this is not enough, and the group dynamics often do not favour weaker students. Going back to the popular activities, the ones that scored highest were individual activities that everyone could participate in. Obviously finding similar activities to this would be great, but the problem is that I didn’t feel that a great deal of English was practised in either, and there was almost no speaking element, which doesn’t fit with the students’ second main request.

The fact that speaking is important is a positive though. Over the course of this year I’ve come to see my role as providing opportunities to develop speaking skills, so its nice that I’m hopefully pushing in the same direction as the students. The post-it activity was well-liked because of the interaction with class-mates, and one comment suggested that being able to write before speaking was a big help. With these in mind, it would seem that activities which involve some individual work, allow for preparation before speaking and allow everyone to get involved will be the most useful. If anyone has suggestions, I’d be more than grateful to hear from you.

Alex

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3 responses to “Last Semester’s Survey

  1. Hi Alex,
    Thanks for the mention. It’s interesting to read what you say about the first question and the skewed results. The same happened in my classes too. There was a kind of herding instinct with a suggestion from one being picked up by all. But often remembering one or two classes then brought more memories flooding back, and really, I don’t think it matters which lessons or activities they choose, I think the interesting data comes when they reflect on why they remembered those lessons and what exactly they remembered about them. That’s where I learnt most about what worked and didn’t work for them. That’s where the surprises came in – that some of the lessons that I’d thought were dry – based on exam-type reading texts – had actually been really popular because the students felt they’d learnt something new (e.g. about globalisation, about the psychology of introversion). Or that the lower level students had enjoyed the sense of achievement of reading a short story (this was an out of class task which we set up in class). It’s also interesting that your final conclusions are the ones that I had drawn about – and with – my classes too.

    Re your final request, maybe this post might be useful?
    http://cerij.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/w-is-for-words/

    Ceri

  2. Pingback: Gliding Principles For Lesson Planning | The Breathy Vowel

  3. Hi Ceri,

    Thanks very much for your comment. As you say, the reflection is more important than the herding, but I felt like it wasn’t quite as useful as yours may have been, as my students were often too low level to express themselves. Credit to them for trying in English though, and it saved me having to muddle through their answers in Korean.

    I really like the activity you linked to. I’d read it on your blog before and meant to do it, so thanks for the reminder. I will try to squeeze it in somewhere and report back.

    Alex

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