Before January ends, I must share more about my year-long focus on student voice in the high school French classroom. If you’d like to read my first entry on this topic, CLICK HERE. Eric Sheninger (@NMHS_Principal), Principal at New Milford High School in New Jersey, invited me to write my first guest post for his blog in October. Thanks again, Eric!
In my guest post, I shared ways to help adolescent learners understand how empowering it can be to use their voice in the classroom. Last December, one of our Math teachers prepared an editable student evaluation form and emailed it to all faculty in the high school. He instructed us to make it our own and share it with our students during one of the last days of class before midterm exams. A few days later, I sent it out during each class after reminding students of the importance of one’s individual voice. They have been told time and again that their voice matters and that we learn better if we learn together. When a student makes a suggestion, I reflect on it for a little while before sharing my thoughts with the entire class, and then I solicit feedback. This part of the process is essential, and I try to prove how serious I am about their thoughts whenever I have an opportunity.
On the evaluation form, students were asked to agree or disagree with a series of statements about the teacher, the course, and themselves as learners. The good news is that the lowest average score was a 3, or “neutral.” All of the neutral ratings were related to the teacher’s performance and the course. For example, I received a “neutral” score for my ability to return work with feedback in a timely manner. I continuously struggle with this for one main reason: most of the work I assess requires somewhat detailed feedback. There is very little, if any, work that requires students to answer in the T/F, multiple-choice, or matching format.
According to the data I gathered, students agreed with most statements overall. I was most surprised by the following example in which students agreed: “The teacher uses technology effectively to advance my learning.” In fact, the average score for that one was rather high as compared to others in that range. My learners tend to resist learning the standards, such as ISTE NET-S, but I march on while continuously explaining why they need to become better prepared to succeed in this increasingly digital world. At any rate, I am happy to learn that they do actually see value in what we’re doing. This also tells me that they’re aware of both the benefits of tech when learning a world language and the fact that the tech skills that they acquire are applicable in so many aspects of their lives.
In the final section of the evaluation, students were asked to tell me how I could better help them learn. Of course, there were a couple students who thought they would learn better if we had parties and ate sandwiches that I prepared just for them. (I’m going to interpret those remarks as a desire to sample more foods from France and Francophone nations, moving forward.)
Below is a list of learner recommendations upon which I have been reflecting. If you have ideas, please share them in the comments. I would love to hear what other educators might do.
-She could give more detailed notes... (I need to find out what the student meant…)
-Be available for longer periods after school. Available for retakes before school upon request. (OK, I’m under the impression that this student stopped by on a day when I couldn’t stay after school because I’m typically available for as long as needed. However, I will say that I’m unwilling to change my extra help schedule to accommodate the early riser(s) because I prepare for the day in the morning. The fact is, I’m available any other time throughout the day (e.g. break, lunch, and after school.)
-Listening [exercices] are sometimes too hard. More practice with listening and reading. (I’m always working to find suitable authentic audio and task ideas, but l am continously working to accommodate this request.)
-Do more speaking and listening [tasks] before tests so that we are better prepared. (I plan to allot more time to video/audio recording opportunities for peer review. Also, I’m now sending audio links to students and allowing them to listen as often as they like when doing formative assessments. )
-Review more. (I’m going to engage each class in discussion on this topic. Not sure what this person meant…)
-Be more clear with deadlines and post all assignments in the same place. (Announcements, upcoming assessments, and other important news is posted on the board and Twitter. I used to do a Google Calendar post on my class website, and may bring that back. That said, we are having ongoing discussions regarding responsibility and ownership.)
-Work on communication. (I will be asking for clarification/discussion in class, but this comment might be related to the fact that we speak French for 90% + of the class period.)
-SLOW DOWN. Less projects. (I have learned that a task versus a project is not always clear to the learner. As for slowing down, I will be more cognizant of this request, moving forward.)
-If she could tell us what is important for every quiz and test. Help us pronounce sentences and words every class period so we can speak….fluently. (We do not use a textbook…..but even back in the day when we did, learners struggled with organization of material. While chatting with a student today, I came up with the idea to ask each class to make a separate folder in the GoodNotes app for all verbs they learn. As for pronunciation, I made a Quizlet account last summer, and just need to keep up with it.)
-Slow down, please, when taking notes because I don’t like taking pictures. (Notes are now available in Dropbox. Students must just listen and fill/add notes where needed. Learners who prefer to write their notes on notebook paper may do so, but they have to refer to the notes in DropBox, and continue writing them from there, if they can’t keep up. There is no longer a need for photos.)
-Not so many…required apps that we don’t use very much or at all. (I took inventory. There was one (free) app that we didn’t end up using because the free version only allows users to record one interview. Some apps are used more than others, but the only purchases my students made were for Quick Voice ($2.99) and Popplet ($4.99.)
-…Weebly.com was a terrible website. (Students are still using their Weebly sites, but we will go to the lab and use the desktop PCs anytime they need to add content. Weebly has a lot of glitches on the iPad, and that requires more patience than folks seem to have.)
My learners used their voices for the purpose of positive change, and I am SO very proud of them for it. I will continue to discuss these evaluations with students in the coming weeks, and look forward to hearing from my PLN as well.
How would you respond to these voices?