Over the course of the last two weeks, I conducted interviews with my students as their midterm evaluation. I could definitely dedicate a reflective entry to this interview process, but I’ve decided to focus on the student feedback that I requested from each student after his or her interviews were over. This was the first time I requested feedback this semester. In this post I’m interested in exploring how the students perceived the feedback and also what purpose it served for me.
After their individual interview, I gave each student a slip of paper with these two questions: What do you like about this Communication English (this is the name of the class as chosen by the Department of Liberal Education) class? What would you change/improve about this Communication English class? When I gave them the slip I gave them the choice to either include or omit their names. I gave them this choice because I felt it gave the chance to be open and honest. I feared that if they felt they had to write their name they would not be critical. They might feel that being critical would negatively affect their grade. I reminded them that their feedback wouldn’t be graded, and that I appreciated honest answers. I asked students to write their answers outside of class, and leave the paper on the desk at the back of the class when done. While they were outside writing their answers, I continued interviewing other students.
Out of approximately two hundred students, the majority of answers to the first question resembled these; “I like communication with friends and professor and enjoy the class.” “Free talking.” “Game is interesting to study English.” “Every week change partner good!! because meet many friends.” “This English Communication class very interested. I’m English speak no good. But this class many speak chance very good. Thank you.”
Answers to the second question mostly looked like this, “Nothing. Thank you teacher.” however some provided insights such as, “detail explanation please.” “more communication with partner”, and two of my most advanced students were able to go even deeper, “You make teams when we have a class every week. I suggested you separate fixed group. Our class is big. I think you can save the time.” “I don’t know what to say…Ah! The more opportunities to participate in the class, the more confidence students can get.”
Some students seemed to interpret the second question as if I was asking how they could improve or change. For example, they answered, “speaking, listening and full of confidence.” “English communication ability improve.” “English. My bravery? Thank you LeBlanc.” Since I hadn’t given students prior indication that I would ask for feedback, this reaction was expected.
If anything, I felt more confident about my teaching practice after reading their feedback. I realized that I was on the right track with group and partner activities. I also learned that I need to make sure that I balance these activities with clear explanations of the language point. Some students may not be able to perform as well in groups and with partners because they don’t feel confident with the language point we are studying in class. I need to brush up on techniques that reinforce language, but don’t require students to go through a typical grammar lesson where they only do activities in their workbooks. Their feedback has helped me realize that they want to speak, but they also need more reinforcement with detailed explanations of the language point.
How can I create lessons provide explicit (deductive) and implicit (inductive) learning? I believe I have a tendency towards creating lessons that focus on implicit learning of the language, when the students might need more explicit language instructions. I’m not always spelling out the grammar rules, because I believe they have had enough exclusivly grammar-based lessons in their lives. However, now I realize that this may be part of their comfort zone, and could help them connect to the group/partner activities more confidently. In future lessons I will work towards providing explicit instructions and activities at the beginning of lesson, and focus the rest of the time on partner or group activities. This will give them the chance to reflect on what they previously learned, and therefore they might feel more confident to use the language. This is the scaffolding that is necessary for a successful speaking class. Following this method, I hope students will increase their fluency.
I regret that I didn’t ask for feedback earlier in the semester. We only have four more lessons to go before the final exams. I believe that next time I will ask for feedback during week 4 or 5. This would give me more time to tweak my lessons in order to meet their needs. Since our time is very limited, meeting their needs is crucial to their learning and could also increase motivation. The feedback also helps me enormously when deciding what to add to my lessons.
I’m left with one question: Was this the best way to ask for feedback? For some students they may have found it too difficult to put their feelings into words, and therefore opted for the easy, “Nothing”. For lower level students a scale from 1 to 10 might be more effective for receiving honest feedback. This is something I can experiment with in the future.