Last week, my colleague and I took advantage of the opportunity of being out for Professional Development to FINALLY get around to leaving our students a survey to take about their experiences in our math classes this year. Of course, we get feedback on Module Assessments on the exam wrappers, but we asked other questions with a wider scope on this survey.
Last year, we gave this survey in December, but the year has gotten away from us this year….it’s mid-March now! Oops! As I read through the results, I remembered how much I enjoyed the experience last year. Yes, it’s nice that many students reported having a good year, but I also came away with lots of other things to think about, from questions to follow on with specific students to realizing I had missed a very important question (more about that to follow in future blog posts).
Following up with individual students
We started the survey by asking the students about their use of resources/options
and asked students to explain their choices, either to use or not use each one.
For me, this is where I first started to get some data about follow-up I wanted to have with specific students. For example, one student wrote “Watching the videos are not helpful because they go to fast and it dosent give me time to think.” Now that I know he feels that way, I can reach out to him and work directly with him to explore ways to make the videos work for him–pause the video; take notes, which forces him to be more engaged; slow down the speed; watch it more than once. Since I am not at home with him when he watches the videos, and since I am teaching in small groups when he might be using the video in class, the insight he provided in his response will help me individualize his experience, as well as use a resource more effectively.
On another question, a different student responded “If the homework wasn’t boring then I would actually get it done, I don’t know, like if something is boring for me, I don’t do it, even though I know that it’s easy and I have to get it done or I’ll fail. My brain is good at controlling me than I can control my grades.” I am excited to follow up with this student–she is a high-performing student, but one who tends to not take any risks academically. With this information from her, I finally have a legitimate reason to push her, to call her out on her choices. If she is bored, she can make changes–she can choose extension options, she can choose options where she writes her own questions, and/or she can propose something entirely different. Of course, it also raises questions for me about my practice. Does she know she can make these choices? Is it clear to her that she can replace her regular, grade-level homework choices with extension or self-designed choices without penalty? Does she know that she can replace, not that she has to “finish all the regular work” before she can “move on” to the other choices? Have I been clear about this?
A very few students made comments about wanting more of what sounds to me like whole-class instruction. As one student wrote, “[It would be cool if we] had more stand up lessons and to have us try the math to kind of have an example of what we have to do.” This response challenges me to find ways to both push the students–I am simply NOT going to return to full-class instruction–while not alienating them. They took a risk telling me this feedback…I have to be super-sensitive in addressing their feedback while also addressing the ways in which they perceive that my practice is not meeting their needs as students (their scores say otherwise, which also adds complexity to the situation).
Some questions that I have been thinking about asking include asking the students if they are coming to small group when it’s optional and if they are asking me specific questions when there is no required small group planned. As a follow-up, I am interested in hearing from students how they can let me know they need/want more small group–should we have an electronic option? Should students email me? I have gotten similar feedback from some students on exam wrappers, but, when I followed up by offering more more small group time, no one came with questions. In particular, I am to see this is as a bigger problem in Extended, the above-grade-level math class, where I think there is more of a mentality that asking questions is socially unacceptable (more fixed mindset). My small group time in Standard (grade-level) classes is generally packed.
All good food for thought!