We are at the 1/2 way spot in our semester. It’s midterm grading time (here the grades at midterm are pretty simple: Satisfactory, Unsatisfactory, Really Unsatisfactory and Never Seen This Person). It is also a perfect time to ask the students to evaluate the teacher and the class.
Bring on the informal evaluation.
Here is how it works: Give the students 15 minutes at the end of class. They can answer some all or none of the questions. It is anonymous. The questions are any variation of the following:
What should START doing in this class?
What should STOP doing in this class?
What should we KEEP doing in this class?
What can the teacher do to help you improve your learning in this class?
What can your classmates do to help you improve your learning in this class?
Collate the answers, review them with the students the VERY NEXT class period. Put them in small groups and ask for comments, suggestions, next steps. And here is the most important thing: if the consensus is that a specific change needs to be made in order to improve the learning experience of many, then make it happen. Ahora. Ya.
Often the changes are very simple. For example, the results of my informal evaluation showed that the students liked small group/pair work. One student in the class, however, went a step further and explained in his/her survey that working in groups of three was better than paired work because it was a little less awkward and people could alternate speaking more easily. Done. A few people mentioned that they really liked spending the first 5 minutes of class with people “checking in” and talking about things on campus, events, stuff they did over the weekend, etc. Done. A few people mentioned they might like to have caffeine. I brought in a pot of coffee and hot water for the tea drinkers. Done.
The important thing is that if it can happen, you need to try your best to make it happen. Of course you can’t please everyone, nor should you try. But if tweaking things here and there is all that is needed…do it.
You might also be happily surprised by the results. Prior to giving out my survey, I found myself dreading the answers. The energy in the class was low, not many people talked, and I felt as if I was dominating the conversation. I was expecting the worst. Turns out, the consensus was that the teacher was doing fine, but the class needed to step up and take some risks and not be so passive. As one student put it “Speak more! We all will be pushed to get better if everyone has las ganas.”
My point is this: Don’t wait until the end of the term to ask how you could do things better in the future. Ask NOW. And act on it. And then in a couple of weeks, ask again.
Remember: What we do in the classroom is about their learning… it is not always about our teaching. Informal evaluations make it possible for those two things to mutually support each other vs being at odds with one another.
Questions? Comments? Let me know.