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Student – Teacher Interaction – An Anonymous Survey is the Answer

My friend in my lab gave me an excellent tip on how to enhance your teaching and your relationship with your students that I would love to share with you guys. Very simple, just give out a mid-semester survey (open ended questions about your teaching methods, as well as their studying habits). Of course tell them it is anonymous and that you need them to be honest so that you can improve your teaching and to give them advice on how to enhance their performance in class. When I gave it out about two weeks ago, my students took 10 min to fill it out and then handed them in. They said it was a great idea. For a second there, I thought they were going to write negative things about the class or blame me for their ‘failure’. However, I was surprised to read the total opposite. The students will actually state what they like about your teaching and what you could do to make the class more interesting (mine was to add more videos – more than i normally do…), then they justify their comment. I loved that about them. It encouraged me a lot and made me aware that I have to change some ways. What was more interesting is that when I read the questions pertaining to their performance and what they could do better to improve. They were also very honest in that they specified the number of hours they study for the course (very low) and then they acknowledge that they have to work harder on their behalf because it is only fair. My average on my second exam was higher than the first (i’m not saying the survey caused it, there are many confounding variables to account for, but I’m saying that your teaching strategies can improve and their studying habits might change). I found this to be a good experience. I learned a lot from it.



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4 comments to Student – Teacher Interaction – An Anonymous Survey is the Answer

  • This is awesome. I did this my first semester teaching for CUNY, but that class was ESL and at a different campus. I also felt it was really successful, and as you said, a way of getting them to check in with themselves about their responsibility even more than it helped me with feedback. I have given end-of-semester surveys since being at QC, with specific questions like this (how often did you read the textbook, how often did you review notes outside of class), which has been informative to me for teaching the class in following semesters, but this is a great reminder that this is probably a better mid-semester tool than an end-of-semester one.

  • Ray E. Skrabut

    I’m glad you’re having much success with the surveys, Theresa – and I tried the same thing (more or less – since I don’t know the kinds of questions you asked) early on when I began teaching at QC in the Department of Comparative Literature. Like the end-of-semester departmental surveys we hand out each semester, the participation rate was outstoundingly low. By that I mean even when advised the surveys were completely anonymous, there were a lot of blank sheets collected. I don’t understand why, but perhaps it’s time to try it again. Thanks for the tips.

  • I have the students complete at home a final reflection as their “exit slip” for the last session of semester. The students are asked to discuss what they found the most meaningful, what they would have liked to spend more time on (and less time on). I have used the responses to modify my course the next year. A mid-semester survey can help tweak a course while those students are still in the class. Something to try next semester, maybe electronically.

    I recently tried using Poll Everywhere during a class session. It is a free online application for up to 40 respondents to a poll. When I displayed the poll question and where to respond to, most of the students took out their electronic devices and responded to the survey. They especially liked seeing their “free text” responses displayed anonymously. They could respond in one word, a phrase or a complete sentence. All but one participated and I heard later it was because of lack of battery power. I will be using it again this week with another class. It will be interesting to see if I have similar reactions and/or responses to the poll.