Whether feedback is anonymous or not, structured or not, formal or informal, done at the end of the term or in the middle, in the parking lot or in the classroom, one thing is true: They are important and we should have our eyes open for them. For me feedback is how the other person perceives it and in a way or another is allowing us to pick inside their minds & hearts. Feedback as applied on a daily basis doesn’t need to aim just at the teacher, it can be about the class environment or other aspects related to learning. I’m sharing today a video I recorded after responding to Kevin Stein’s Google hangout where we talked about feedback and I shared a particular story. Kevin Stein, Ann Loseva and Mike Griffin used in their presentation at a conference in Japan. Then, the Feedback my Ss in the 9th grade program in which Ss work in small groups (groups varies from 1-7 Ss this year) and the focus is on developing their communicative skills.
Every year, around October, my school provides a form online for Ss to give feedback about the teacher. There are 11 questions and it is done anonymously. All of them have to answer it otherwise they can’t use their online plataform. This year the total number of Ss in this program was 35. In one of the classes there is only one student and he didn’t bother to answer the questionnaire, so he just clicked on “Don’t know how to assess that” in all the 11 questions. A pity really because I consider him one of the most critical students I’ve had. Remember the post about The Walking DEAD? Yeah, that was the guy that convinced me that I would love it and still laughes at me every week for enjoying the show so much. He loves saying… “I said so.” Apart from him, only one Student did that as well (in a group formed of 7 Ss) and he told me he is lazy and never bother to answer this questionnaire. So, I didn’t count the 1-2-1 learner, but I had to count the other one as he was in a group. The results are given per class, but this year, I decided to analyse it a bit differently. I went through each question and reflected on them myself. Then, I summed up all the students per item and answer, and then used a pie chart to help me analyse their responses and compare with mine.
Here is the video link from TeacherTube, the one I sent to Kevin Stein: Students Feedback
THE FIRST QUESTION IS related to whether I missed classes or was on time to start and end them, as well as if I used class time adequately and productively. As far as time goes, I’m always there when they arrive, this year, only once I had trouble getting to work and got there a bit after one of my groups. Ending class is usually a problem, the classes are intense most of the time that we usually forget the clock that they have to leave my class and walk back to the main building to join the rest of the class. As for using time adequately and productively, there are moments in class where I collect feedback, we talk about other things so I can learn more about them and them about me and I have never used class time otherwise. When they are taking tests, I sometimes read because the groups are so small and they are placed in a way that is difficult for them to cheat. Besides my tests are not usually easy to cheat as answers need to be personalized.
I’m happy to see that students and I are on the same page in this item. At least most of them as just one didn’t know how to assess it, only one said rarely and only one said sometimes.
IN ITEM 2 it was evaluated whether I kept students online space updated. In this case the online space they are refering to is the digital roll call and where we inform students and parents of upcoming tests and we can post their homework. I personally don’t usually keep the digital roll call and the upcoming tests updated. Should certainly improve in that area, however concerning the tests I usually talk to them about the tests right in the beginning of the bimester first by discussing the objectives, then what type of tests they can expect (if we are going to focus on a particular skill or competence, but rarely on grammar points even though they are informed of what grammar points are being convered.) As for homework I tend to use a lot, but not always. It a great tool where I can post instructions, explanations, links to videos and other interesting things online. And I have kept this semester a Tumblr where I can put the link in the homework area. Here is what the students said.
MOST STUDENTS acknowledged the fact that I use it for homework and the variation in the use of Always/Usually/Sometimes shows that there are different perspectives as the Question covered three items: roll call, upcoming tests and homework.
THE THIRD ITEM is whether I establish the forms and criteria of evaluation beforehand and then I am able to use them at the end of the bimester. I really try to establish objectives, forms and criteria of assessment right in the beginning of the semester and share that with them as soon as possible so they know and have a chance to understand the process more clearly, and afterwards I discuss it with them specifically at the results of the tests.
LOOKING BACK this item myself, I can see that I failed at times to be more clear regarding the goals, strategies and forms of evaluation, not criteria though, especially because for them this approach is pretty new. They expect language to be assessed by language alone, so it is all about grammar and vocabulary. I should have given them more time to get used to it. I was quite surprised that my impressions were different from theirs. Only one didn’t know how to assess it. And none said rarely or never. Most of them acknowledged my efforts as trying to be as clear as possible and to make the process more of a process that the end result. It was nice to see that although I feel I can improve this item as some of them (6/7) found it not as clear as most of them (20). An item nonetheless important to work on next year.
THE FOURTH ITEM is related to the content I teach. Do I know the content well when I teach them in class and are the students not only having theory (in this case, talk about the language), but have opportunities to practice it? I think I fail actually in doing the opposite, we spend less time talking about the language (sometimes actually that students expect to as they are used to being taught by grammar rules and memorization of rules in regular school and practise by completing text/sentence filling or multiple choice types of exercises. I felt that some learners had difficult in the beginning to understand and accept what we were doing although it was pedagogically more interesting and productive for their learning, the rote learning was what they were used to and breaking the habit was really difficult in the beginning. Even though they showed great interest and engagement in the tasks proposed in class, they were a bit unsure if they were learning the language or not at the beginning. Feeling that was changed for most of them as the term went by as some had told me was nice but not enough in my opinion. I should start slowly next year. It was quite exausting in the beginning of the year and felt like a rollercoaster to keep the rapport with them.
LOOKING AT students response I can see that most of the students (25) saw that clearly themselves. They acknowledged all my efforts to bring to them the very best to ensure they had a rich experience. However there were (4/3) usually and sometimes respectively then this shows me that the learning attitude I have myself in which I had to learn and improve other skills like for example narratives or writing a script was misunderstood or confused with language content in this item by them. Only 1 wasn’t able to assess and 1 said rarely.
ITEM 5 is related to inter or multi disciplinary projects and tasks both of which I haven’t done officially with other teachers, but I have actually brought knowledge or at least tried to of other subjects. Especially when I worked with them on the VEP project, the documentary about Amar the Indian boy and we talked about my life in Egypt. So I expect them to answer this item around never or don’t know how to assess that.
SOME OF THEM talked to me about this item and said that they couldn’t answer it as they were either not sure what to say or understood that the projects/tasks were the interdisciplinary ones they usually have in their regular classes. So I totally understand the result in this item. 8 of them didn’t know how to assess this item, 2 of them answered accurately as I have never participated in multidisciplinary projects. It is not easy though to understand this item without talking again to the students. In our case, this item should not be considered as our program does not require us to carry on this kind of projects. The data collected is not really clear as to what it means in terms of gaining understanding either for me or for the students. Probably something I will have to talk to the Head Teacher whether I should be participating in this sort of projects in the future as it counts when my students evaluate me and my teaching or I should make sure students understand what it means from the beginning of the year. Either way, it will affect my final mark in the teachers grading system. It will affect even if they click on I do not know how to assess that. I suspect that most of the students that chose Always, Usually and Sometimes because they had the sense that it could affect me, or they thought of the projects we had done.
ITEM 6: This is an item similar to the one before that. We usually don’t participate with them as the regular teachers do in other subjects. So, what I expect them to not knowing how to assess that or say rarely or never. And they did JUST AS EXPECTED!
ITEM 7 IS maintaining discipline in the classroom. I really believe that discipline equals focus, but that doesn’t mean being quiet, but knowing when quietness is necessary. Listening to one another is equally important to paying attention to what I am saying so if the topic is interesting for the whole class and everyone is contributing then everyone should be quiet and listen to whoever is speaking and sharing. So if one student is with the mind elsewhere and sit quietly for me it is still a problem as he/she is not really engaged with the rest of the group. Groupwork (noisy), pairwork (some noise) and whole class activities (not as noisy as the other two), individually (silently) are all moments in the class dynamic. I guess the only time we get completly silence in our class is when they are working individually, and even so for some students talking to their neighbor is a must.
EVEN IN MY most talkative groups there is a consensus that I maintain the environment organized enough. In one of my groups of 7 students, the one in which keeping them on track is the hardest thing to do, only one said he/she couldn’t assess it and 1 said rarely, probably because he/she expects the class to be in total silence and that equals discipline for him/her. Interesting enough the two students that said usually are from the same group. And this group is one of the quietest one, the type of group they hardly ever laugh with me at silly things or seem to have a bond with each other. The kind of group that there is no real chemistry between me and them and among themselves. Classes usually lack that excitement and productiveness I get from the other groups. So I find the two students assessment on this item odd.
ITEM 8 IS about keeping the environment organized at the end of class. If I actually demmand from them it. Demmanding however is a bit too much. In fact apart from not alowing them to draw or write on the desk, something I really take seriously, I never ask them to put the desks back into place because there is never enough time for them to do it. I have to let them go at least 5 minutes before the bell rings, so they can walk back to the main building which takes at least 7 minutes to do so. As our classes are usually filled with tasks and the activities are challenging and we are always busy, we usually forget about the time and they have to leave in a hurry. To tell you the truth, I organize the room with pleasure as I know they were active in class and totally forgot about the time to leave. Comments like “class has already finished!” shows me how much engagement were going on and enjoyment too.
THE CHART shows that even though the question is aimed specifically at the end of the class, they see me as organized as far as class environment is concerned which is a relief as we have to move desks constantly and I always ask them to move them without scratching the floor or making unnecessary noise. I also remind them of the importance of taking care of our classroom and everything inside it because it cost money and we should maintain it in good standard as long as we can.
ITEM 9 IS related to using class time to do anything other than what is related to teaching like answering phone calls, correcting other classes tests, leave the classroom, or other. In the script project I split the group in two so I had to go back and forth between the rooms leaving them for while to work on by themselves. In the VEP project they had the freedom of using other spaces. However I don’t use cellphone, tablet or laptop for anything during the classtime. I always have them around and use them between class breaks only. I’m guilty of reading though. I always have a book or teaching magazine around so I can read while they work quietly on their assignments. Anything that I can easily stop and give them the proper attention if they ask for it. However when they are doing group work or pair work I prefer observing them and taking notes. Regarding notetaking, I usually do that with EVERNOTE or directly at my WIKI so I usually use the computer when they are working in pairs or groups. I have showed them a number of times what I was doing so they wouldn’t be thinking I was doing something else as I am aware of this item. But I’m not sure, alll of them believe me as using any sort of device is a no-no in my school unless you use it pedagogically so I’m ok doing what I do.
I’M SO GLAD to see that students have understood why and how I use technology in the class as I usually use it a lot to register what is going on in class either through pictures, audio recording and digital notetaking. 17 of them said never and 7 of them rarely summing up 71% against 3 (9%) which didn’t know how to assess the item and 4 (12%) who said always and shows me that didn’t understand how active and engaged in their learning I was + 3 others, one (3%) said usually and two (6%) others sometimes.
ITEM 10 IS Do I solve conflicts and treat people nicely and respectfully? I surely hope I do so. My way of dealing with conflicts is through dialogue and the more candid we are, the best we can solve the matter. So that is how I usually treat my students with kindness, but firmly as well as being honest. Of course I work with teens so I am careful with the words I use with them. Sarcasm has no place in my class. I don’t shoot any kind of comment at my students, not even in a joke manner and I know some of my students find it odd. At the beginning of the year it was very difficult for most of them to accept it as they find it funny a teacher making remarks that could embarrasses their classmates. They find it really funny. I don’t find it funny and I don’t allow them to do it either. As for instance a student is struggling to answer something or to talk in English, something I have managed to avoid to happen when I adopted the writing before speaking – John’s Fanselow’s suggestion at Breaking Rule course. So class is less funny, but class environment is a lot healthier and safer to make mistakes.
Just behind item 7, this is the item with the highest percentage of positive response (76%), if you add usually it rises to 85%. 4 students said sometimes and that means they still feel that I didn’t acknowledge them with the respect they deserve which is a pity as I try really hard to do so. At least nobody clicked on NEVER!
The LAST and THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE FOR ME THIS YEAR!
I was much less flexible in the years before especially with teens. Children and adults were always easier to get along and accept their suggestions, as children usually ask for things that comes in the package of teaching them anyways and adults know how to request things most of the time. Teens on the other hand have a lot of difficult in expressing themselves. So because of that, I tried to create opportunities for them to do so without being extremelly obvious. Other times I made sure they were giving their opinion on something and that I was really looking forward in changing the approach if that would be beneficial to their learning. Even if you try to explain to them why this and not that would be better for them, we end up breaking the rapport you have built with them everytime you have to say NO. So, I decided to let them experiment with their own ideas and learn how to reflect as well as experimenting with mine (This is another lesson I learned in the BREaking Rule course). So, as they don’t understand things easily and takes a lot from the teacher in order to really listen to them, it took me first of all a lot to learn how to share the floor with them as much as I could (as there are things that school expects me to do), to learn how to experiment with their ideas and incorporate new ideas that were for both of us novelty in so many aspects. So one of my goals this year was to learn to listen to them and not be afraid to experiment.
I’m very happy to finally discover that my students, at least 62% (corresponds to 21 Ss) of them, really view me as open to suggestions and critics this year. That is so great because this is was one of my assumptions about myself right in the middle of the term. I thought that I was really putting into practice all that I was aiming for in the beginning of the year. Interesting enough another 18% (6 Ss) said usually that means that there are few things that we did that either didn’t make sense to them or we should have made differently. While for another 6% (2Ss) I was open to critics and suggestions only sometimes. Two students showed some animosity when they said never or rarely in which I take as something is still missing in my class for those students and 3 of them didn’t know how to assess that. I know for a matter of fact that one of my students in one of my largest groups marked don’t know how to assess it on purpose and that wasn’t because he doesn’t like me at all, we get along pretty well, he told me however that he has no patience for this feedback forms and he did that for all the teachers! I even joked with him that it would cost me in my final grade and he apologized and said he should have done it at least mine then! I explained to them that it is important not because of the grade, but a great opportunity for us (teachers and school) to find out in what things we can improve for their own benefit and that it was a pity that he didn’t take the time to answer it. At that point, the class and I also had the opportunity to discuss it further.
Now that this year goals were achieved and can be improved next year further, time to set new goals for my PD for 2014!