I had predicted that the survey results would go down in the spring compared to the fall (not documented here in my blog, but personally and to some colleagues when talking about this project), so I shouldn’t have been surprised when that did happen. What I will simply have to do is to take the information I have, reflect on why this might be, and make plans for moving forward.
Every single category of the 7 C’s dropped in value from the Fall to the Spring of this school year, such that the total accumulated points went from 324 to 302. While not a drastic drop, and not low overall, the specific ranges of adjustment also fits in to what my prediction was, and I’ll explain why I think I knew this would happen, overall and in some specific areas. In the Fall when I gave the first survey, I had barely instructed in the class, the students who weren’t in my EAL group barely knew me (some even thought I was a TA for quite awhile this year), and I got the feeling that the results I initially got (in the medium to overall high range, almost nothing low) were probably an optimistic and good natured assessment of how the class was going in general, and whatever small part I may have had in that. I essentially doubt they could really say how they felt about me as a teacher at that point because I did so little instructing, planning, or grading. Now they’ve had much more experience in the class (but still not much more with my instruction or teaching style), and I think students are able to verbalize their persuasions about these different areas better now, and so- the numbers have all dropped into an actually more realistic range.
The second immediate reflection on the data is that I see a picture of what is expressly worded in the questions that go a long the lines of, “In this class…”. This wording seemed interesting to me because the students are in a co-taught classroom, but their experience is still unified in their minds- they look at their grades for instance, and they have a general feeling of their experience in the class despite the survey being specifically intended to get their feedback on my teaching in that class. At this point of the year, I still haven’t done very much instruction in this class, we’ve primarily used the ‘one teach/lead’ co-teaching model and I support EAL students when they are working on tasks, and at most we’ve occasionally switched that model to where I’ve lead an activity in isolation about once per month on average this year. So not a whole lot changed in the way I interacted with this class of students from the beginning of the year to now, other than the EAL students who I worked with outside of the class as a lead teacher in EAL pull-out who have had more experience learning with my direct instruction in a small group environment.
This also leads me to reflect that some of the metrics that students rated lower may have had less to do with my teaching or my priorities as a teacher and more to do with that general experience they have in the class, which I haven’t had much to do with. For example, for the area of Clarify, responses were low for “In this class we learn to correct out mistakes,” and “We get helpful comments to let us know what we did wrong on assignments,” and I immediately thought back about the frustrations I’ve seen EAL students experience when getting assignments back continually at the Approaching level all year long in Humanities and wondering somewhat hopelessly how they can take steps to get better when they feel like they’re up against a wall. My assistance and attempts at scaffolding are sometimes errant if I’m not sure exactly what the final product of their assessments should look like in the small details, or what the criteria for meeting the standard should look like. This is an area for improvement I’ve been trying to work on all year, and will just have to continue on in the future. At one point this year I was made aware of a file folder in the classroom that apparently had all the old graded assessments in it, and I rifled through some of them and saw the same vague five word comment repeated on several different papers and started to see why they might feel that way in areas concerning feedback and how to correct mistakes as well. There were a few opportunities this year where I was able to meet with students to give them formative feedback on writing, or on a few Socratic Seminars (because we physically had to split the class to be able to get them all done and graded in the time we had) where I gave grades and comments on a rubric and I was sure to give as much extensive individual feedback in those situations as I could, but I don’t think that was a consistent experience for students.
This situation has made clear, based on the results of my survey, that this is an opportunity for me to try to improve this specific dynamic of feedback in the class for next year. One of the methods I used to use when I was a regular classroom English teacher before this was to return graded and marked assessments and give students time in class to read over them and then require each student to ask at least one question that I would circulate through the room to answer individually. No matter if their question was to clarify the feedback, how to correct mistakes conceptually or practically, or at the very least, banal grammar corrections- every student had to take time to review their individualized feedback, and to furthermore be formatively assessed on that review in the form of a question they generated on their understanding of mistakes and how to improve. Having this data to back up what students in the class are concerned with should support changes to things I’ve found frustrating all year long, and hopefully can be an area that I can get involved in to be of benefit to the students.
To move on to the specifics of the data gleaned from this survey, the top level areas that were lowest by number value were: Consolidate at 268
Challenge at 290
Care and Clarify at 294 each.
The specific answers that were rated low were:
“In this class, we learn to correct our mistakes,”
“My teacher asks questions to be sure we are following along when s/he is teaching,”
“In this class, we learn a lot almost every day,”
“In this class, my teacher accepts nothing less than our full effort,” *(repeat from the first survey, unchanged- as described in a former post, the students clarified for me about this when I asked, that they openly admit they don’t give their best effort because they ‘are lazy’, and choose in all situations to hold back. This is problematic in its own way because it leads me to think that engagement isn’t meeting in the intersection of motivation/challenge in the Zone of Proximal Development, but there are also issues in a mixed ability EAL group, where the needs are quite wide apart and it’s a known challenge to be able to differentiate for all students at their respective levels but one to nonetheless work on…).
As I started to look at the further broken down information of question response percentages, I’m actually starting to be confused about what qualifies as low, medium, and high, since for example in Consolidate the “My teacher takes time to summarize what we learn each day,” (which was one of the single items I worked on doing in class this year, since it was simple and easily executable) was rated as Medium, where the other two in that Consolidate area were Low, even though that one had more Low and Neutral responses than the other two questions, so I’m actually a little confused on how those general rankings and maybe weightings are made now after looking more closely, but I will still use the responses as they are to try to make adjustments for next year.
In summary, the results dropped across the board pretty much as I expected, giving me a more realistic look at students’ experience in the class but also giving me more more clear objectives to work on in the future than what I did throughout this year after the first survey and goal setting. My goal now is to see how I can spend my time and effort in the class to make adjustments that will benefit the students in the areas that they have felt unsupported in the end, and to try to bring these to my co-teacher to get their thoughts, input, and ultimately support, to figure out how this might look next year in the same class. So moving forward, my areas for improvement will be feedback and differentiating for the purpose of engagement and best effort…