I often discuss the benefits of utilizing student feedback in the classroom, but something else I encourage my teachers to do is to think about using student engagement surveys. A student engagement survey can look differently for different teachers depending on your classroom climate, but all versions of this tool are both beneficial and highly effective in the classroom.
Many teachers give the side-eye when I make this suggestion to them; they claim that they don’t have time to hand out a survey or that they’ve never done it before and don’t know where to start. I totally get where you’re coming from because when given the choice between grading papers, making copies for tomorrow’s lesson, prepping for a class, or giving students feedback on assignments…I’m choosing the latter, too. I’m sure you’ve all had that experience of being under the gun to get something turned in or marked, but I have a few reasons why giving students feedback on their work is so important and having student engagement surveys is worth your time.
The main purpose of a student engagement survey is to give students a voice. It’s common for teachers to say, “I know what my students want,” but how does the teacher really know what they think if he/she doesn’t ask them? This is an excellent way for students to tell their opinion about the class and school so everyone can be on the same page.
Another reason this works well is that it gives the teacher an opportunity to create a culture of feedback where students feel that their voice matters. When you take time to offer students your professional opinion, they will be more likely to take you seriously.
Student engagement surveys are also beneficial because it gets students thinking about their school experience in a positive way. This can help them focus on what they are doing well instead of dwelling on the negative aspects of their education.
What Are Student Engagement Surveys?
Student engagement surveys come in all shapes and sizes, with some including more or fewer questions than others, but all surveys encourage teachers to take the time and investigate the perspectives of their students. Rather than assuming you know what your students feel, a student engagement survey will give you a better idea of how your classroom is really operating and how it could be improved.
Many teachers question why using student engagement surveys is even necessary. You should be able to tell if your students are engaged in your class, right? Not necessarily. Only through taking a student engagement survey can you truly understand your students’ perspectives and reactions to the class.
Even if you are an experienced teacher, collecting data from your students can be useful to know how successful your lessons are. It is important for any teacher to know how his or her class is doing so changes can be made where necessary. A student engagement survey will offer some insight into your students’ thoughts on the classroom and what they believe can be changed or improved upon.
When Are Student Engagement Surveys Useful?
Student engagement surveys are useful at any time, but I typically use them at the beginning of a unit to give me a better sense of where my students are at and what they feel is achievable. I also use this tool on the last day of the unit as a method for giving students an opportunity to reflect on their learning and provide feedback before we move on to something else.
The premise is quite simple, yet profound: ask students how they are feeling about the unit, their engagement, and what they might need or want to be successful. Students can complete this information anonymously if you’d prefer them not to attach any names to their responses.
This is not a scientific tool by any means, but it is a quick and easy way to gain useful insights into your students. The results are usually very good, as students tend to be very honest when it comes to their engagement with the unit.
One thing I like about using an electronic format is that you can collect information at different times throughout the unit, track it on a spreadsheet or in your favorite word processing software and then generate a report or graph at the end of the unit. This way you can see trends when it comes to how your students are feeling, where they need additional support and when their feelings started to diverge from what you were expecting.
What are some considerations when creating an engagement survey?
There are several different things to keep in mind while creating student engagement surveys. First, make sure the questions you ask are clear and can be simply answered. If you include too many different questions, your results may not make sense or will take a long time to interpret.
Secondly, make sure you include questions that only require a “yes” or “no” answer- if there are multiple answers possible to one question, it is best to break down this question into two and ask students to pick the one that fits them best. This will make it easier for you to interpret and focus on the most important data takeaways.
Lastly, keep in mind that some may not feel comfortable answering certain questions, so avoid tricking students into potentially sharing too much personal information.
How Do I Administer a Survey?
Aside from the paper and pencil or digital versions, you can also utilize an app to run your student engagement surveys. Two such apps are Kahoot! and Quizizz. Both of these tools allow for easy administration as well as helpful data collection, but they both work differently so you will need to find one that is compatible with your learning environment.
The key is to make the student engagement survey simple enough to fill out so the student doesn’t get overwhelmed and not put forth the effort you need from them.
After you have created a student engagement survey, administered it to as many students as possible, and collected data from those students, you can then begin to analyze that data. The more data you have over time, the better (and easier) it will be to make sure that your techniques are implemented properly and are hitting the marks you are hoping for.
How Do I Analyze the Results?
After you have collected and processed your student engagement surveys, it is time to really dig deep and uncover what the results mean. First write down some “key takeaways” from each of the questions that were on your survey (if there are too many responses, narrow them down to the top three or four). Next, make a list of the themes that you collected from your qualitative questions. Putting those two lists together will give you a pretty good idea of what’s going on in the minds of your students!
Once you start noticing the trends in your data, focus on creating an action plan that you will use to address the biggest issues that your students are facing in your classroom. For example, let’s say that your survey shows that your students are often tired when they get to class in the morning and that it affects their performance. You may come up with an idea like “let’s start each day with a 5-minute yoga session to stretch and wake our bodies up!”
This process might seem overwhelming and time-consuming, but remember: you can (and should) always iterate! If you try something and it doesn’t work, change it up, survey your results, and give it another shot.
How Can I Use This Information?
Once you have used your survey to inform your teaching, it is time to share what you’ve learned with other teachers. There could be several times where you’ve wanted to give feedback on an activity, assignment, or other aspects of your classroom but didn’t know how to go about it. Now that you have the information, take some time and share what your students liked/disliked/etc. in a respectful way that will not anger those who may still be using these strategies.
It is also important to use this information so students understand that their voice is important and thus leads to more buy-in within the classroom itself. The more the student feels like he/she is part of the educational process, then the better they will perform, and thus increasing student engagement as well.
Just as important as the actual feedback is the willingness to make changes. It is sometimes a hard pill to swallow knowing that something we may enjoy doing is completely missing the mark with our students. It requires us to think outside of the box and get out of our own comfort zones. This is a brave new world we live in, and it requires us to be willing to change.
The bottom line is that you do not have to stick with the same teaching strategies from year to year if they are not working. In fact, I highly recommend that teachers continually look for new ways to reach their students. It’s no secret that our world changes rapidly, and we could potentially be left behind in the dust if we do not continue to adapt.
Be brave and continue to search for new ways to educate your students even if it means doing something you’ve never done before. You’ll be glad you did!
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