Student centred vs. teacher weakness. Hearing this presented as a conflict always leaves me with my head in my hands, as it smacks of a lack of teacher self-confidence at learners’ expense. As well as using intuition, observation and test scores, there is a very simple way to find out what students want from a course and how they feel about certain aspects: ASK THEM DIRECTLY. The customer may not always be right, but they certainly deserve to add their voice to the other data we collect. In the age of social media and Netflix, people are used to individualising and reflecting on their own experiences, and there is no reason why a shift in society’s structure shouldn’t also be reflected in the classroom.
Of course, it’s the teacher’s job to compare these student perceptions to their own and act accordingly. This is where Edurio online surveys can help. After first using Edurio back in Autumn and blogging on it, below I’ll detail how I’ve used the new and improved Edurio surveys for both evaluation and Needs Analysis in my classes recently.
Using Edurio is effective in three steps:
- Decide what you want to know from the learners and create your own survey questions (or just use Edurio’s pre-prepped Qs), then email learners the link.
- Edurio collects and presents the data in a simple visual, ready for the teacher.
- Understand where improvements need to be made, take practical steps to do this and communicate these to the learners.
It’s beautiful in its simplicity, yet 1. may take 15 minutes of a teacher’s time (if I can do it with my limited tech brain, anyone can!) and 3. requires a teacher’s ego to be put to one side to admit that aspects need improving and they are willing to do this. As usual, this ties in to Mindset Theory, as a growth mindset sees ‘failures’ as opportunities to improve, whereas a fixed mindset would shy away from being exposed to these ‘innate shortcomings’.
So before I detail how I’ve used Edurio for evaluative reasons in two classes and Needs Analysis in another, why else am I advocating its use (apart from the fact that my girlfriend is Marketing Manager there and I’m sentimentally attached to the company)?:
- At the moment, it’s still FREE.
- It’s not just me. Edurio is used in over 200 schools in Latvia (it’s home state) and several schools in the UK, and has ongoing projects in Western Cape, South Africa, and with Oxford University Press.
- The European Union’s research and innovation grant program Horizon 2020 was convinced enough to award Edurio a €1.86 million grant last year.
- Learners are free to express their opinions without fear of retribution or causing offence, as all Edurio surveys are answered anonymously.
- As I did previously, we can do everything Edurio does with paper surveys, but a. it’s a tree killer and b. it takes a lot more time to act as “data janitor” with all the results. Edurio collects answers and summarises results in simple graphs. Here’s an example from my paper Needs Analysis forms from September 2016, when each class’s feedback would take me 45-60 minutes to dissect:
Why? I’ve recently been given a class of 15-16 year olds to prepare them for the Year 9 state exam. As I wasn’t left any clues as to their strengths and weaknesses by their previous teacher before she left the school, an Edurio survey was a quick and easy way to do a Needs Analysis to see what I should plan into the remaining two months before the exam.
What did I learn?
– Confidence is high on all parts of the exam, but a little lower on the Listening and Use of Language parts, so I will spend more class time on content and techniques for these in the remaining weeks. Edurio creates these results tables automatically; all I had to do was log in and decide what to do with the information.
– The majority of students expressed an interest in some simple psychology training in order to perform at an optimal level during the exam, so I’ll incorporate this. No matter what the brain knows, if the mind isn’t right, the grades won’t reflect knowledge!
– I need to keep a close eye on exercises and practice exams to see if these perceptions match results, as at the end of the day, the exam results will reveal ‘knowledge’ rather than confidence.
– I might well repeat the same Edurio survey in 3 weeks to inform me for the remaining 3 weeks before the exam. This will take me less time than a TV ad break – copy and paste the survey link and resend to the same mailing list. The typical teacher excuse of “Good idea but I don’t have time” doesn’t apply here.
Why? I sent the same survey to two Upper Intermediate adult classes I have on Tuesdays and Thursdays, one in the morning and one in the evening. It’s important to remember that adults are paying customers, and have many other things to spend their time and money on, so they need to be getting what they want. To find out, asking usually works fine.
This also gives them the (accurate) impression that they are empowered and instrumental in their own learning, not just consuming what I force feed them. I’ve taught the morning group all year and the evening group for only a couple of months, but in both cases I wanted to use the idea of Easter renewal (hopefully not resurrection) to check up on their opinions of the course before we continue. Edurio also allows us to compare classes on the same questions, so I wanted to compare how my morning chirpiness and evening fatigue affect learners’ perceptions of my teaching. Edurio makes these comparisons for me:
What did I learn?
– In both classes, some considered the speed ‘way too fast’ while others rated it as ‘slow’. I need to be on the ball and adapt the speed of the lessons to different learners, perhaps by setting a variety of tasks. Here’s the combined data for both classes, and individual class data is just a click away:
– I should make it clear when previous Needs Analysis data (from the paper forms!) has had a direct influence in lesson content. The NAs have a strong influence on my planning for these classes, but this wasn’t reflected in students’ perceptions.
– Students do not understand what I want to achieve in each lesson as clearly as I’d like. I’ll start writing up some simple lesson aims on the board at the start of each lesson. This will also remind me what the point is!
– Student perceptions of their own progress is generally low. I could put this down to people being hard on themselves, or not actually making any progress. In either case, I’ll introduce a bi-monthly progress task next term to ensure that students realise that they are making progress (which they undoubtedly are!).
– Don’t ask pointless questions. ‘Before starting your work, how well do you understand how the teacher will mark your work?’ isn’t too relevant in this class. Students have their own coursebooks and are not preparing any exam, so the need for explicit marking criteria is minimal.
– The point of a Needs Analysis is not to tickle one’s own belly (polite way to put it), but to find improvable aspects and change them. However, I need to maintain the class atmosphere that meant that the vast majority believed attending lessons was time well spent and that lessons are interesting, as these adult students have no obligation to spend a significant amount of their spare time and money on coming to class. The positivity was shared across the morning and evening groups, so thankfully my personal energy levels don’t reflect on the students’ experience.
Other uses for Edurio surveys:
- Content for staff training by easily observing common weaknesses in many classes (all data can be compared in a table with the click of a mouse).
- Insights into bullying (it’s anonymous).
- Insights into mindset and motivation.
- Staff surveys on topics like class materials, general satisfaction, team cohesion etc. (you only hear from the vocal ones in staff meetings!)
What do you think? Could you use Edurio in your classes? Check out their website here. Please leave a comment!