Starting the Year with Student Surveys

Finding out information about your students at the beginning of a school year can be extremely helpful. Here are 8 questions I plan to ask my students on the first day of school.

This upcoming school year I plan to focus more than ever on listening to the voices of my students. One way I will do this is by Student Surveys. I’ve frequently used surveys at the end of a course to help inform my practice. There have been, however, so many times in my teaching career when I’ve gotten midway into the semester and discovered something important regarding my students’ learning. I’ve often said, “Wow, if only I knew that earlier!” Because of this, I plan to be proactive by creating a Student Survey, which I will give on the first day of class. This way the students can provide me with the necessary information I need to help them achieve.  Unlike the post-survey, the pre-survey will require students to use their names.

Surveys can be administered in a variety of ways. Survey Monkey is a great online tool that teachers can use, although the free version limits a user to ten questions. I plan on using a regular pen and paper survey because I believe that some questions are interconnected, and having each student’s individual survey in front of me will be easier for me to form a more accurate picture of my student’s learning profile.

Here are 8 questions I will ask my students in their surveys:

1. “What type of instruction do you find most effective? Teacher lecture? Teacher-led discussion? Student-led discussion? Independent work? Group work? Teacher created video? Professionally created video? Project-based Learning? Other?” There will always be a space for students to add in their own suggestions.

2. “What types of assessment do you prefer? Multiple choice tests? Short answer tests? Essays? Individual Projects? Group Projects?”

3. Since I understand that feedback is critical to a student’s success, I want to dig deeper to find the best ways to help my students learn from their mistakes. Too often I find myself correcting the same mistakes over and over again on my students’ papers. I will ask students: “What can I do to challenge you to listen to feedback and incorporate it into your work?”

4. Most importantly, I want to know how my students will communicate with me when they do not understand. I want them to be able to self-advocate, so a question like “How will you let me know when I need to slow down, clarify, or reteach a concept?” will be part of the survey.

5. Because my class involves a great deal of reading, I’m going to ask my students to assess their own reading skills. “Do you enjoy reading? Do you have difficulty comprehending? Remembering? What strategies help you understand what you read?”

6. I’m also going to ask my students “Is there is anything that can stand in the way of your success?” This question, especially, can provide me with a wealth of knowledge. How I wish I knew last year that Sebastian had to babysit four very young siblings every night. How helpful it would have been for me to know that Luisa worked 40 hours a week at McDonalds or that Lionel lived in a 2 bedroom home with eight family members. I will ask students “Is there anything I need to know about you that will help me ensure your success in this class?”

7. “How best can I communicate with your parents and family? Do they speak English? Do they have cell phones? Email? Which do they prefer?”

8. Finally, I will ask my students “How I can be a teacher you can trust and you can turn to when you need help?”

The data I cull from the students surveys will definitely help open the lines of communication between my students and me, and the surveys will provide me with the critical information to ensure a successful school year. 

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