Post-Brexit and Trump, maybe asking large groups of people for their opinion doesn’t seem like such a good idea. But undeterred, this is how I’ve started using Edurio, a free web app for teachers to analyse learner feedback, to try to improve my classes.
So many teachers agree with the concept of a learner-centred classroom, but not as many take any practical steps to bridge the schism between a fluffy mantra and reality. The fundamental principle of a good teacher is not predominantly about how we teach, but how the learner learns. Obviously, identical teaching techniques and class content can be greatly successful for some learners, and completely useless for others. Nonetheless, the learner too often plays a supporting role when they should be the main character.
“A mentor once told me that innovating in education is really easy because you don’t actually have to innovate; you just have to do what business was doing 10 years ago” – Ernest Jenavs, founder of Edurio.
I’m no entrepreneur myself, but we can take some rudimentary lessons from the business world. In a different context, it would seem ludicrous to focus almost entirely on the product, not on the customer. Would Nike spend time and money developing a pair of trainers without asking the runner how they feel on their feet? Lesson planning, teaching techniques, personal reflection on own practices: all of these are the product that we offer. They are important, but how these affect the customer (learner) is even more so.
So how can we ensure that learners are getting what they want and need? Simple: ask, listen, act.
What are we worried about? Negative feedback isn’t there to sink us professionally; it’s a lighthouse to get us away from the rocks. If we really are interested in learners learning, rather than just our teaching, it’s the simplest route to take.
Usually, the only systematic data are test marks, but these shed little light on why a learner may not be understanding or engaging, or how lessons could be improved.
With Edurio, you can pick from well-researched questions or create your own, and you simply send the link for the survey to students via e-mail. I used many of the ready-made questions to ask learners on my intensive IELTS preparation course for their opinion, as this was the first course I’d taught, and I wanted to seek improvements for future courses.
We don’t have the time to pour over data and reach conclusions. In fact, I don’t really have the technological expertise to create a graph from an Excel spreadsheet.
But Edurio makes this easy by automatically collating data into easily-understandable graphs, so you can see exactly which areas need improvement, as well as being able to compare between classes directly (seen below).
Without this, the whole process is obsolete.
Moreover, and even more damaging, the temptation could be to bask in the warm glow of the positives and pretend that nothing can be improved; it always can!
We have to focus on improving the negatives the next time we have the chance; the next IELTS course in my case. For example, referring to the Edurio graph above, I’ll be more vigilant in monitoring the speed of the lessons and adapt preparation for slower learners in the next IELTS course.
Furthermore, for schools with swathes of data, Edurio consolidates it all into easily-analysed tables (like the one below), so teachers can be helped (not punished!) with problem classes, and staff training can be tailored to improve specific weaknesses across the board. In fact, Edurio is already used in around 200 schools here in Latvia and is gaining popularity internationally. All this can benefit those who really count: the learners.
[screenshot from Edurio’s demo results view for schools]