Do you love me? Sometimes the only way to find out is to ask.
Ok, so maybe we’re not going for love exactly, but we certainly want to know what our students think about our classes. An anonymous form may get you started, but really that’s just the tip of the ice-cube. Feedback is a tricky subject – because people rarely tell you what they really think.
For the student, even anonymous feedback can be tempered by the thought that the teacher might find out what they think.
Here are a few ways you get some sneaky feedback:
Self-profiling for medium-sized group classes (5-15) – GE Adult Learners Create a Learner Profile. (06/01/12)
It’s good to know who you’re in the room with right? Especially when they’re staring at you intently and taking notes. I have occasionally found out extremely pertinent things about my students three-quarters into the course. It’s frustrating when that happens, especially after I’ve made a carefully constructed needs-analysis and asked pointed questions, repeatedly. The thing is, it’s impossible to cover it all. That’s where your students come in…and then go about ruining all your preconceptions.
Now I still advocate implementing your needs-analysis with every group, but this exercise goes into greater detail and will allow you to really pin-point your learner needs, quirks and miscellanea, without you having to go through a big pile of papers that you’ll probably leave on the bus anyway. Or maybe that’s just me.
Check out Mr Android on the right there (click on him to be taken to the link on edudemic.com, or right click to save). He represents a customer profile by Bluestacks, a company who, by delving into Facebook, surveying some 450,000 people and cackling in the midnight rain, created something akin to Frankenstein’s monster.
The idea of this exercise is for your students to create something, uh, similar to represent themselves as a class, although not in quite so much detail perhaps. This is good for students who are into marketing. Unfortunately you won’t know that they’re into marketing until they’ve created their profile. Now’s there’s a catch-22 to ponder.
How to go about this
Well, you can’t really say, make a customer profile, leave it on my desk and I’ll judge you all later. But you can do this…
- A massive bit of paper – the kind that rolls out – and some marker pens.
- Or a whiteboard and a camera.
- Or an interactive whiteboard (I wish).
- Or, several A3 sheets taped together.
- Or cans of spray paint and white walls in your classroom*.
Stage one – generate a discussion
- Who has an iphone?
- Who has an Android device?
- Which is better and why?
List the reasons on the board as they talk as a class, make any corrections you need to.
Next project or distribute the Android Profile, go over some of the details and ask if it rings true with any of your students. Who is the most/least similar? Compare yourself (i.e. the teacher) to this guy and ask what your students think.
Stage Two – simplicity is beautiful
Now you could make this complicated, but that will just uglify matters. Tell your students that they are going to do a getting to know you interview with a partner (or, if later into the term a biographical interview).
But first, get your students to write down ten interesting questions – five relating directly to language learning and five completely random. For example:
Why do you study English?
How many languages do you speak?
What’s your favourite animal?
Do you have a big family?
Use this as a chance to monitor and correct. You’ll also see how good your students’ question formation is.
Now, here comes the fun bit.
Depending on what you managed to patch together – use your white board, that massive bit of paper, or spray paint the walls of your classroom**.
Your students must create their own class profile by drawing an outline of a man/woman (depending on who the majority in your class might be). Get your most artisitc student to make the outline, or do it yourself. Then your students should fill it in, two pairs at a time with the random snippets of information they have garnered from one another. They should circulate, write one piece of information each, then pass the markers to another pair. I would set a time limit on this for larger groups, or you’ll be there too long. The idea is to create something dynamic so you might not to get to know everything, but you know, nothing’s perfect.
Once finished and you are all staring at the beauty you have created, get your students to come and tick every piece of information that is relevant to themselves. They should indicate anything they agree with, it really doesn’t matter if they said it themselves or not. This should be much quicker than the previous activity.
Finally, if it’s on the board, take a photo, so you have evidence of your class. If you’ve got it on that massive bit of paper do the same, if you’ve spray painted the walls, it won’t matter anyway. You’ll be able to refer back to it as you create your syllabus or are at some point stuck for inspiration. You’ll be able to theme your lessons so that they appeal to your students, you will be able to see little details that perhaps you didn’t know. Your students will have practised question formation, they will have interviewed one another, they’ll have practised writing and they’ll have moved around a bit. Give it a go if you’re feeling brave.
Design Your Perfect English lesson (12/12/11)
This is a feedback activity I use in adult classes. It has an educational value to it for both the student and the teacher and can also be an introduction to the entire lesson.
Here’s how I do it (teacher script):
“When I was younger, I had this terrifying teacher. We would sit very quietly, waiting for him to speak. In fact the classroom was always silent, sometimes for the whole lesson – we were all so scared of him. Unfortunately for us, this made the teacher even scarier, because he hated the silence and he would get very angry with us. And the angrier he got, the quieter we became. Why do you think he hated the silence so much?”
Image by tim ellis via Flickr
Answer: he was the music teacher.
“Exactly, very good. And he was very mean. He would make children stand up and sing. If he didn’t like them he would laugh. Instead of having fun in the music lesson, we’d go away silently thinking it was the worst part of the week. Did anyone here have a teacher like that?”
“He was the worst teacher and the most horrendous character I’ve ever met.* Now I want you to do the opposite. In pairs I want you to design your perfect teacher. What characteristics would the ideal teacher have?”
Patient, intelligent, clear, etc.
“What are the opposites of those adjectives?”
- Who was the most memorable teacher?
- Which teacher challenged you the most?
- If you could talk to one of your teachers again, who would it be and why?
The next step is to give them some time to construct their perfect English lesson. Ask questions to guide them – maybe something along the lines of:
- How much time would be devoted to grammar practice, speaking, reading, writing, debating?
- Would there be games? What kind?
- Would there be mini-tests?
- How many students would there be in the class?
- How much individual attention would each student get?
- How much homework would the teacher give?
- What topics of conversation would you have?
- What topics would be really interesting for you to study?
- Name one thing you do now, that you would not like to do in this perfect class?
Ask each student to spend sometime thinking and write a few paragraphs outlining their perfect lesson. It might not be direct feedback, but I guarantee there will be a lot of valuable information relating to your class in particular, what the students want, what they want to change and possibly how you could improve.
If you then want to continue the teaching theme into your lesson, you could instigate Peer Teaching
Another less sneaky way to get feedback, without – you know – actually asking for feedback.
For the last 15 minutes of class, ask your students to pair up and think back on the activities they have done. Give them some paper and ask them to write the activities in the order that they remember them. Ask them then to decide what the activity was for and how it is relevant to their needs. Finally get them to say two positive things about the lesson and one thing they would do differently.
If you get the students to analyse the lesson first, the feedback element seems more natural. You should have time left over to get some oral reflection on what they have written.
*I’m not responsible for your actions. **really, I’m not.
*NB this is made up and I quite liked my music teacher.
Designer Lessons by George Chilton is licensed under a Creative Commons Reconocimiento-CompartirIgual 3.0 Unported License.
Creado a partir de la obra en designerlessons.wordpress.com
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