This is likely going to turn into a few posts as I try to dissect the whole phenomenon and hone my questions in order to get better answers.
I have reposted all of the questions that I asked this semester here: http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pI7v5sPn0HZpurzKqONJGYQ
The first thing I should mention is that at the beginning of the semester (F08) I was totally on the fence as to whether these surveys were going to be anonymous or pseudononymous and ended up by asking for a “handle.” The idea seemed pretty clear to me at the time, but I ended up explaining it several times that it was just a name that I could reference back to if I had a question and that it did not have to be the students name or anything that would identify them. As it turns out by the end of the semester I could identify all of the students by their handles anyhow. I am thinking that I need to have an anonymous drop box that is ongoing in addition to these decompressions.
Looking across these questions I see several categories that they fall into:
1) general reflection
2) project oriented
3) skill and content oriented
4) general open ended prompts
5) additional emphasis (did you notice this? types of questions)
6) project check-in
I won’t say that this is the best selection of questions, but I want to think about these (if they be categories) and consider what I can do to open them up more, or if they are important or distracting. Moreover when is it most useful to ask a certain type of question? Obviously the “have you started on the project yet” can help me get a handle on who is waiting till the last minute.
1) general reflection – “What have you learned this week?” is probably my favorite question for several reasons. First of all it makes the student go back over what they did in class and think about what we covered. Secondly it tells me what stuck with the students, and though it is quite open-ended it gives me some insight as to what the student is seeing.
2) project oriented – “have you started?” “do you have any questions about the project” “do you have the skills” – I think these need to be refined, perhaps even into two types of questions – one that prompts the student and another that self assesses. If used sparingly this can be a prompt to let people know that they should be working already and begin their research process.
3) skill and content – this relates very specifically to #2 but it goes further, “do you know how to make a selection in photoshop” can tell me who is way behind, and “did you do the reading” or better yet a specific question about the reading comprehension can tell me where the class is.
4) general – “do you have any comments?” This is a catch all, because I just cannot anticipate everything that is going on either environmentally or otherwise. In a previous use of this I found out that my class was all hungry and distracted because of it. That is when we started bringing in snacks.
5) emphasis – I guess this can combine with 3 as well, but I did notice that this is a direct path to reaching the students, they read, comprehend (for the most part) and respond. I guess I just don’t want it to be too test-like.
6) check-in – again this feels like #3, but I think this question could be honed, maybe something like “what are the two elements you are mashing up?”
7) planning – I hope that I can all but eliminate this category, but until then there is an opportunity to fill student needs directly, “do we need more dreamweaver” and get a numerical response.
One of the key features that I think made these surveys work is the informal way they were administered and the briefness of them. I tried to keep them short 4-6 questions but asked as many as 10 when I felt it was necessary. Overall the students answers were reasonable – honest chunks of text, and I really want to encourage that.
What did you learn this week?
I find it ironic that I find myself once more in the same place that I would put my students, trying to come up with good questions. In my mind that means that something is right.