The following is a copy of my assignment for the PIDP 3260 course at VCC.
To be effective instructors, we need to find ways to check in with our students. This feedback can guide us to being more efficient and providing a better experience for our students.
For this paper, I read chapters three and four of Stephen D. Brockfield’s book The Skillful Teacher (Brockfield, 2015). It is also based on my own limited experience with formative assessment instruments.
Formative feedback, especially at the beginning of a course, is important for the instructor to know how the students are doing. I usually use an anonymous Google form to get feedback. The questions are short and easy to answer to encourage participation.
Giving honest feedback can be very intimidating. Sometimes students are from a culture where voicing critical feedback is frowned upon. Some students struggle with trauma related to criticizing someone. This is why anonymity is essential in this case. The classes I usually teach include two days of online teaching a week and three days of shop time. The online time lends itself to getting the students to fill out an online form. For in-person courses, I will need to introduce a system where the anonymity of the students is still guaranteed.
Here is a link to the online version of my form: https://forms.gle/5pn7U72nR47J9hGJ9 .
Using Google Forms has several advantages:
- Students have to authenticate themselves with their email addresses but this is not recorded.
- It is a free tool everyone with an internet connection, even a smartphone, can use.
- The results can be compiled in a spreadsheet.
- The tool creates graphics that can be shared with the class.
As mentioned, it is important to provide clear, simple instructions that don’t take much effort to understand. Google forms even provide the opportunity to include emojis or images, so the questionnaire appears less formal.
The drawback of using an anonymous form is the fact that you don’t know who completed it and participation numbers might be lower because of this. Keeping the look of the form light and the questions short signals the students that this is not an onerous and long task. This is especially important if I want to create a feedback form for every week of the program.
The form in my example is the form for the first week that includes shop time.
The purpose of this item is to gauge an overall impression and to signal to the students that they have input in the general direction of the course. If the answers do not return a very good result, it will be necessary to have a general discussion with the class about the expectations of the students and the instructor.
I chose a Likert-style scale but rather than offering all kinds of various statements, I chose to have a scale of 1 of 5 between “bad” and “amazing.”
Google forms make useful graphics from the answers to these scale questions.
Do I speak clearly?
As mentioned, this is one of the earliest forms in the program. It is a good opportunity to make sure I am understood clearly.
Three easy answer options give me the chance to see if the style of the instruction and the language used are appropriate for the class.
Speed of instruction
The course is designed for basic skills taught to students that have no previous experience. Sometimes though I have students that have previous experience. It is important to me to know if students feel under-challenged or overwhelmed. Depending on the answers I can simplify the content or give advanced students assignments to deepen their knowledge.
I chose a Linkert scale from “I’m falling asleep” to “way too fast” I am using emojis to lighten the mood. This way students can give a gradation without being hung up on specific statements.
Do you feel better prepared using tools and machines now?
This is a form designed to gauge the first week in the shop. Sometimes students are intimidated by the safety instructions in the first weeks of the shop. I aim to give my students the confidence needed to handle the tools and machines while staying safe.
I chose a Yes/No answer option here with the possibility to add a comment. This gives students the option to specify what they are not comfortable with and it gives me the option to repeat and improve the instruction in the shop.
It is important for the future of the students to use machinery and tools safely and efficiently. I see this question as one of the most important ones in the form.
How do you like carpentry as a trade?
The course is designed to give students an impression of what it is like to work in one of the trades. The goal is to help them decide their future path. This question will be repeated throughout the program to encourage students to think about what they learned and hopefully help them decide.
Google forms give participants the option to receive an email with their answers. Students that regularly participate in the feedback process will be able to collect their impressions to look back at the answers from ten weeks of learning about new trades.
The feedback I receive will help me gauge which trades are more popular after one week and possibly improve those weeks that have a lower score.
What is one thing you would like me to explain better?
This is my version of the “The muddiest point” formative assessment tool. The field lets students type a short paragraph.
Taking the answers to this question I can explain the “muddy” point in a better way and help my students to understand it better.
Realizing that this question may lead to students being overwhelmed, I left answering it optional. Maybe there is nothing they can think of and in that case, I don’t want to create an obstacle to completing the form.
Analysis and interpretation of the results
Google forms give me the option to see all the answers in a spreadsheet. This way I get an overview of the responses without leafing through the individual answer sheets. I can also choose a graph of the returned results and see what percentage of the class has answered the scale-type question in what way.
The results of the overall form will help me get a general idea of where the students are at.
How is the overall impression I give and how can I improve?
How effective is my teaching of the technical aspects of the trade? This will help me repeat key points if necessary and consider reworking the section for the next course.
The feedback form gives me the option to uncover insecurities in some of the students or points that were misunderstood. While I can not necessarily know the student that voiced a negative opinion, I can encourage that student to approach me privately and resolve the situation.
I will be able to add a little “what was unclear last week” session on the Monday following the completion of the form where I can explain the “muddiest point” questions and other concerns voiced by the students.
I can also show general answers to the scale-type questions using the graphs generated by the Google form.
I will use these feedback forms after every week of instruction to build a library of answers and inform future curriculum development. So far, using it once or twice at the beginning of each course has helped me to get a good start but having a full picture will be helpful in the long run.
Naturally, an online form will be better suited to classes that are taught online. I will give students time at the end of the Friday wrap-up session to answer the questionnaire.
In classes that are taught in in-person classroom settings, I will devise a system where the students fill out paper forms and hand them in anonymously. I will then have to transcribe the answers into a spreadsheet manually. Because my classes have a maximum of 16 students, this task should not take too much time.
Evidence of effectiveness
Using these forms regularly allows my students to think about what they learned during the week and how they feel.
The results give me as an instructor the opportunity to correct my style of instruction and make changes to accommodate my class.
I can also use the results to continuously improve the course for the next intake. If needed the results can serve as evidence to the department and other stakeholders (SkilledTradesBC for example) as to what general changes should be considered in the future.
Brockfield, D. S. (2015). The Skillful Teacher. In S. D. Brockfield, The Skillful Teacher.
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