How to get great feedback from your students

Microsoft Forms

Last week we got a new app in our Office 365 for Education suite: Forms. In several respects it’s just like the Google forms we all know — but this version integrates deeply with Office 365. So I decided to give it a try with my Year 10 English classes…

Last week I was thinking a lot about what some teachers refer to as WALTs and WILTs. A WALT (what are we learning today) is just another term for an SLO, a student learning objective. I believe it really is important that as teachers we are consciously able to put into one sentence that which we are intending for our class to learn.

Without an SLO I’d argue that learning still takes place but it is very difficult to measure the learning and therefore assess how effective the learning environment is. So for best practice I’d maintain that an SLO is vital for teaching and learning.

But it’s not the SLO that I wanted to talk about in this post — it’s the WILT (what I learned today). I wanted to know what my students felt they were learning. And what better way to find this out than to make up a quick end of week survey using the new app. It’s at this moment that I had two thoughts:

  1. What do I really want to know?
  2. Do I really what to know? (am I ready to face up to what my students really think?)

The answer to the first question had me thinking through my SLOs for the week. So I composed one text question to cover that part: “Write down the main thing you learned in English this week.” I thought this was a good question because it would make my students think and articulate their answers.

Secondly, I wanted to know what activities they felt helped them the most. So I composed a “choice” question: “I really liked…” and then gave them five choices.

For my fourth and fifth questions I wanted to ascertain what they felt about the assessment they completed the week before. And finally, I asked them to simply rate the week out of five stars.

Having spent the time composing the questions I manned up to the fact that I may not like the answers. “In the end, it’s best for the kids,” I persuaded myself. So I boldly emailed out the link to the class!

Within 3 minutes I had 35 invaluable responses all summarised for me on my Forms dashboard.

The results

Instantly, I was heartened to see that nearly all of the students understood what I had wanted to teach them. I was relieved…

Having said this, there was a variation in response from the eloquent: “How to write a personal response and what each paragraph is about and how you should relate it to yourself in personal responses,” to the basic, “How to write a good personal response.” Unfortunately one student missed it altogether with his, “I Dunno, writing and stuff.” I’ll guess I’ll speak to him on Monday?

Secondly, from the neat little pie charts generated from my “choice” (multiple option) questions I learned that my students equally loved the three new activities I had introduced during the week. Their narrow favourite was vocabulary.com, my latest favourite teaching tool. I was so glad that they were embracing the tool which I had spent hours researching, choosing and customising for them.

This Form also helped me understand that my classes were a bit disappointed with their exam results — more than half of the class felt they could do better. Again, a pleasing bit of information I can now work with.

And finally, the class rated their learning experiences in English this week as 3.5 stars (out of 5). I’ll take that!

Things to remember

So, if you want quick easy and helpful feedback from your students, I’d highly recommend Office Forms. If you give it a go, I’d love to hear how it went for you and how you modified your practise as a result.

Just before I go, here are a few things I learned which you may find useful:

  1. When composing your questions, don’t forget to set the “answer required” toggle to on — if you don’t, students will simply short cut the question.
  2. Remind your students that although they don’t have to fill in their names because Forms automatically logs the name of the responder. I personally think this is a good feature for teachers as it ensures students take ownership of their comments. It also aids in the follow up of those who did not feel like they learned.
  3. I found the a benefit of Forms was that because students were already logged in to Office, it was a very simple process for them to complete my five questions.
  4. The best way to send the Form out is to email the link to your students via a Group in Mail.
  5. If you want to use your Form again, click the three dots on the form tile (on the Forms start page) and “copy” your Form. Then give it a new name or date.
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