Now we’ve got to know our students from September, whether online or not this year, November is around the time I introduce ‘Stop – Start – Continue’ to my classes, in total, I do this three times a year with each class.
I’ve found this is one of the most effective forms of feedback for my classes which comes directly from the students.
Once in November, once in February and one final time come May (providing we work to the end of June and their exams are 3rd week of June), all of my students get a sheet of paper that looks a lot like the graphic below, with empty space for them to write in each of the three sections.
What I do is give out this paper at the start of a lesson and explain that it is anonymous feedback for me and isn’t shared with anyone else as I am their teacher, and its specifically for me and for their class. They then have until the end of the class (to give themselves time to think) about the class in general and their progress so far.
In the spaces, I want them to fill out things that they would like to Stop doing in class, such as is there too much focus on a specific point in the language, is the homework too long, and even down to the simple things in the room, like is the lighting and temperature of the room good enough for them.
The Start field is for things we haven’t done in class so far (which can be hard to fill in the first time around) but would like introduced. One student several years ago wanted to start having Irish sports highlights at the start of classes, but as that wasn’t in the general interest of the entire class, I gave him the GAA YouTube highlight channel which he loved. This could also be bringing in exam technique earlier in the year, or 5 minute revision sessions at the start of the week.
The Continue field is generally the one I find is best for feedback on everything that has happened so far in the classroom, students are pretty happy to tell you things that are and are not working the way that you think and the changes are normally pretty easy to bring into classes. Two common themes from the continue part of the page I find is the practice of specific examination sections for exam classes and the sprinkling of Irish used in classes as students seem to take to asking each other “what’s the craic?” at the start of each class.
At the end of the class, when everyone is leaving they fold the page in half, don’t write their names on it (unless they really want to) and drop it into a folder of mine so I can inspect them after the lesson. Obviously it can’t be 100% anonymous as chances are we already know their hand writing but it’s something at least.
Generally speaking I would do this with A2 (adult) students and upwards as young learners and lower level teens don’t have the level to explain or fully understand the reasons for doing it. I have tried with A2 teens before but all of the feedback was “sweets and TV time” and the like, which wasn’t overly useful in general. For A2 I would introduce it using their L1 (use of L1 in the classroom is another post altogether, but to summarise, if you are in a classroom where everyone’s L1 is the same, it shouldn’t be up for debate whether to use it or not, of course you should), just to make sure everyone understands what is going on, and perhaps let them answer in L1 as well, if it suits them. Generally lower level adults are happy to carry this out if you (for example in my case) stick to Spanish for the feedback.
It also needs an explanation in class as well as to why you are doing it – teachers and our love for feedback – as some of them when they first come to do it are uncomfortable at being asked this, as I’ve found in the past, but once they get their head around it, it works wonders (for them and for me).
Of course this year will be different, it’ll be explained to them in class on Zoom and then they’ll send me back an email after class – immediately ruling out anonymity, but at least it’s private between them and myself.
Anyway, results shall be discussed in a blogpost a week from now, let’s see what the classes of 2020 have to say so far!
Give it a go, I highly recommend it, and there is always something that appears that in 100 years you would never have thought of in your classes, the little differences can make all the difference for some or all the students in the room. Someone once said to me that in a classroom of 10 students, there are 10 teachers, as every single student sees you, the teacher, differently. This is a useful means of seeing how they see you as well.