22 January 2013

New Semester Resolution #2: Never (Always) Ignore Student Responses

Do you ever feel like you must have fallen asleep at the wrong time during PD or way back at the university?

"Listen to your students," sounds like such great advice for a principal or instructor to give to any young or pre-service teacher, but sometimes its just as important to silence a voice so another can rise.

sketch of a kid straining to raise his hand
He looks so eager, right?
Listen to Your Students
Do you have any procedures in place for getting feedback from your students? I do this sporadically as exit slips every couple weeks on any given lesson or topic, but I always do it to begin and end a semester with a survey.

The initial survey is to get info on my students' learning styles and teacher history, and the exit survey is for feedback on how they learned, what they liked, what they didn't, what might be helpful to tweak, etc. Some of my exit survey responses are funny - "He dresses well," - some of it is mean - "can't ever teach" - but most of it confirms attitudes I already have heard from my students, and some of it comes as a helpful surprise (the first time I considered superfluous technology use may have impeded a student's learning).

When a couple students out of ninety say something similar, I often attribute those to outliers or students with an ax to grind, but if I see it over and over, it builds validity. Giving this feedback opportunity to my students is helpful in several ways:
  1. I get favor collateral from many students because they know I'm trying to improve
  2. Frustrated students can get things off their chests and start clean in January
  3. I can model humility to my students (it takes some to even put yourself out there)
  4. I get a window into my teaching that does not usually come out when other teachers are in the room or during walk-through or formal observations. (Contents of this past semester's survey mostly led to these new semester resolutions)
Ignore Your Students (So You Can Hear From Others)
As I alluded to earlier, this would have come as a surprise to student-teacher Chuck, but sometimes kids wanting to answer questions can be bad for my lessons. I'm sure you've see it too, but the rate at which I let the A/B kid answer and ask every question is often directly related to the number of eyes I see rolling or kids that check out and start doing anything besides math. I notices this fairly early on last semester with a particular student. 

This was the sequence of my responses:
what i did to begin ignoring students so I could hear EVERYONE

For elementary teachers, the stick can is well, elementary, but I don't find it common place in secondary classrooms. For me, I probably never bothered to even try because we have so many more students. No part of me wants to keep track of 90 sticks and/or 5 different cans. Using the Stick Pick app makes your "can" MUCH easier to manage. The added benefit with the app is that you can set it to give you different Bloom's prompts for different students, allowing you to differentiate on the fly.

Finding methods to generate and receive feedback from every student that work for you is the bottom line. Its easy to pat yourself on the back when a couple students demonstrate mastery, but should it come at the expense of the large group that were almost there?

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Thanks for sharing!