While going through my Twitter feed a couple of weeks ago, I came across Bianca Hewe’s blog post on gaining feedback from students in order to improve your teaching. My year 7 class this year, which I have taught for English, Maths, Science, Geography and History, have been completing weekly evaluations on how they have been progressing academically and in their project work each week. They have also competed end-of-term evaluations. I have always valued student feedback, mainly because I think they are the best judges of my teaching and are the best placed to provide me with advice on how I can improve my teaching and their learning. Also, I think it emphasises that the teacher is a learner as well. This year we have been using Geoff Petty’s goals, medals and missions model of feedback and have created an atmosphere that everyone always has something new to learn and something they can improve on. So asking for students to evaluate my teaching further emphasises the teacher as a learner and further enhances the feeling of a learning community for the class.
For the end-of-year evaluation, I decided to move away from my usual multiple choice ranking questions in Survey Monkey and modified the questions on Bianca’s posts instead. I thought having 10 short answer questions will give me a better insight this time, especially into the classroom atmosphere and the relationships that the students have formed with each other. So here are the 10 questions I asked my year7s, a summary of their responses and my reflections on their responses:
1. What was the nicest thing someone in our class did for you this year?
Year 7s said that the nicest thing their classmates did for them this year were to share food with them when they forgot recess or lunch, lend them equipment such as pens, helped them with maths and made them feel welcome. I think the integrated curriculum approach, where year 7s stay in the same group with the same teacher in the same classroom for 5 KLAs, have created a very close-knit learning community. My class works like a team. They look out for each other and help each other.
2. What was the most challenging part of our class for you?
Year 7s came up with a mixture of responses for this question. Some of their responses include working with others productively in projects, writing persuasive texts and maths. Not surprisingly, algebra came up very frequently as something they found challenging. To be fair, these year 7s are achieving at a much higher level than any other similar cohort that I have taught, but they have very high expectations of themselves.
3. If you could change one thing that happened in our class, what would it be?
Seating plans and the design of the classroom came up quite frequently in the responses. I have been experimenting with different arrangements of furniture in the classroom that will allow students to easily move furniture to suit different types of activities. I haven’t got it down perfect. Some of the things I have difficult are the placement of students in a way that minimises disruptions and also allows everyone to have a clear view of the main presentation areas (students have a seating plan for most activities and are allowed to choose where they sit and rearrange the furniture during PBL activities).
4. What are three things you did this year to help your classmates?
The responses here are very similar to question 1.
5. What is something that was hard for you at the start of the year, but is easier now?
Algebra, science and maths in general were the most frequent responses. I am very pleased with them saying they find science easier now as I have spent a lot of effort on the pedagogy of their science activities (eg. Using SOLO as a framework).
6. What is your favourite part of our Integrated Curriculum lessons? Why?
Games based learning and project based learning were the response from almost every student. The reasons they gave ranged from learning being fun to being able to work in a team to having choice and being creative.
7. What is something you taught your teacher or classmates this year?
They taught me a lot of things this year. I never knew you could freeze an image on the IWB until a boy showed me where to press on the remote.
8. Which project did you learn the most from? Why?
Overwhelmingly, students said the Minecraft project was the favourite. I was expecting them to say “because it’s Minecraft” as their reasons, but none of the reason referred to using Minecraft at all. They all said they learnt a lot about ratios and the history of the Parthenon.
9. What are some things Ms Leung could have done to make this year better for you?
The responses to this question varied. Quite a few students said more laptops in class. We had 12 laptops between 30 students. What I’m worried about is that they will have no laptops in class next year and will possibly be the first group of students to experience the end of DER. We have experienced so many technology-rich learning experiences which are authentic 21st century learning experiences and next year we will go backwards.
10. What advice would you give to students who will be Ms Leung’s class next year?
I was very surprised at the responses at this question. Being 155cm and just having my personality, I have often lacked the ability to “scare” students into behaving. I rely very heavily on building a rapport with students and good learning design to manage their behaviour. However, the responses to this question from year 7s indicate that they see me as someone having very high expectations for their behaviour. Their responses include “always follow her instructions”, “don’t be rude” and “don’t ever take your phone out without her permission”.