Thursday, May 12, 2016

Using Student Surveys to Reflect on the School Year

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It doesn't hurt to revisit older blog posts when they're full of good stuff that you can use today! This one is about how to incorporate student surveys in your end-of-the-year activities as a way for students to reflect and for you to get feedback on how the year went. 

Survey Says...Meaningful Student Reflections on Their Learning, the Classroom, and You!

About this time every school year, I offer my students an opportunity to reflect on the year as a whole using surveys. I created surveys for the subjects I taught--reading, English, spelling, writing, and social studies--as well as one about the classroom atmosphere, one about me as the teacher, and one about them as students. This is one of my favorite end-of-the-year activities. I know how I feel after each lesson, unit, and activity, keeping notes about what worked and what didn't as well as future ideas for tweaking. It's really interesting and helpful, though, to get the perspective of the students.

When I first created the surveys, they were open-ended in nature. I have fine-tuned them in subsequent years to include a mix of open-ended and Likert scale questions to get a better overall picture of students' thoughts.

The questions I ask tie in to one of my goals of teaching, which is to show students how to take responsibility for their own learning. I ask questions about their favorite lessons, activities, books, and assignments that we did, as well as those with which they had trouble. I also ask them how they felt in the class. Were they engaged? Were they challenged? Was material too easy, too hard, or just right? I ask them to list specific strategies, ideas, of facts they learned as well.

I make sure to include the word "BECAUSE" in every one of the open-ended questions. For one thing, it helps explain the first part of the answer. Another reason is that is gets the students used to supporting their opinions with details. I learned early on to structure the questions so that specific answers had to be given. That way, I avoided the "nothing" and "everything" answers.

My surveys are also written to empower the students. I want to show them that I value them and that it's possible for them to help me be a better teacher through their suggestions. In every survey, I ask them to name a specific lesson, topic, or activity that could use improvement and how it could be improved. I also ask them about their experiences with me as their teacher. Am I fair? How do I make them feel? Do they think I care about them as students and people? How do they know if I'm listening to them? If I'm not listening to them?

Survey about having me as a teacher
When presenting this activity, I tell students they should feel free to be honest and that it is not necessary to put their names on the surveys. I also assure them that the surveys will not impact their grades. I stress the importance of being aware that there's always room for improvement. A couple of rules about answers that I give are that students cannot write, "Nothing" or "Everything," and they must answer every question. I allow them as much time as they need to complete the surveys and encourage them to take their time in completing them. Students can use their binders, folders, textbooks, agendas, and anything else that helps them to remember what we've covered during the year. The class completes one survey at a time so that students can be thoughtful in their answers.

Self-survey for students
I read every survey, taking note of repeating themes in the answers. I've been surprised a few times about what has been a favorite and what has been a dud. I even pull a few of particularly positive ones to put in my "When You're Sad" folder. (I read the items in this folder if I've had a bad day!) This activity is so wonderful for teaching students about the importance of reflection, but it is also a great way to be the self-reflective teacher that I need to be so that I can be the best teacher I can be. 

Looking to incorporate student surveys in your classroom? Save some time creating them with these.

How do you get feedback about how the year went from your students? Leave a comment!


  1. Such great ideas. I am always surprised at what my kiddos love as well. I am a new follower. I found your blog via Caffeine and Lesson Plans.

    Hunter's Tales from Teaching

  2. Hi, Bethany,

    I'm thrilled you found my blog and are a new follower! I look forward to spending some time at your blog soon.


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  4. I love this blog post. I have used surveys in with my students as well. Last year I went so far as to give them a survey about me. I think I might do it again at the end of this school year as well.

    Renée (AKA MadameKenny)

  5. That always makes me a little nervous to read what students have to say about me, but I do appreciate their honesty!


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