Well into summer, I finally have some time to sit down and reflect on the school year! One piece I wanted to take a closer look at was the end of year evaluations from students (of us!). Gabby and I created a Google Form with seven required questions and an optional anything else you’d like to add (they are all listed or summarized below in bold font). We then asked our students to give us honest, thoughtful feedback as part of our reflection and planning for next year. We find that using a Google Form and having students respond on their computers often causes them to write more and feel more “anonymous” and empowered to be honest.
There are many reasons why we ask our students for feedback. Primarily, we do want to know what they are taking away, thinking, feeling, and reflecting and student evaluation of teachers is an important and often overlooked resource. We also want to give them an opportunity to practice using their voices and saying what works/doesn’t work for them. Also, we want to model being open to feedback and self-reflective! On top of all of these reasons, 5th graders are hilarious and we wanted to see what they would say.
Our first question was a highlight (something you enjoyed) from 5th grade.
Some trends among the answers were:
“One of my highlights for fifth grade was the Storytelling unit. I LOVED doing it because A: I love hearing stories and B: because it was really fun to perform and learn about things I never knew about my dad (I interviewed him) and details about things that happened to me when I was little.”
“I enjoyed the simulations like the bead making food eating office working simulation because it showed us how it feels like to be less than or not to give up”
Social Studies/current events
“I loved reading and talking about current events because it was interesting to find out what was happening in the world. Though I didn't enjoy annotating, I think it will help me in middle school.”
“I enjoyed how understanding the teachers were. Like, one time I did all my homework but I forgot my homework folder, and I was so disappointed. Instead of getting mad at me, you guys just said I could borrow someone else's word study sheet since it was Friday and I needed to take the word study test. Even though I was sad, it didn't go as bad as I thought it would go, and that was a highlight of my year.”
“I really liked word study, even though I am not the best speller in the class word study has helped me a lot. Also I loved doing the quizzes at the end of the week and getting are grade back ( even though sometimes it wasn't the best grade. ) Overall word study was a fun part of homework in 5th grade that I enjoyed.”
I love that word study was something that at least one student enjoyed, as it is annoying for us (teachers) to put together and grade and most students complained about the word study homework incessantly.
Next, we asked what was something that didn't feel good (or was a challenging moment) for you?
Too much HW
Writing by hand
Virginia Indian Case studies (but felt proud of getting through them)
My personal favorite response:
” I think that the puberty/health and wellness was challenging for me because I would laugh at everything you would say about it.”
I love this because this was how I usually feel when teaching Health & Wellness.
Next question: How did Social Studies feel for you? Was it too hard, too easy, or just right? Which parts? Why?
These are important questions for us to ask because sometimes we think our content is too challenging and intense and wonder if some of our content is more appropriate for middle school.
“Just right. I loved SS this year. It was fascinating [sic], and sometimes scary, but always the truth.”
Good to hear! Most students said just right, or if it was hard at times, they later expanded their understanding.
Is there anything you are still confused about from Social Studies? Is there anything you are still thinking about?
“I am still thinking about The Trail of Tears. This event made me wonder how much of history is covered up, and how much of history do we still have to find?”
“I left SS this year with some questions like "why does the world have to be so cruel\rude\angry when we can all just focus on the good things?" and "why blame other people for things they did not do? As [another teacher’s name] says, 'life is ment to build people up, not break them down.'" But those questions were things that I wanted to strive to answer (and maybe change) when and as I grow up.”
These are issues I continue to think about as well..
What could your teachers have done better to support and/or challenge you?
“call on me more randomly because i don't usually raise my hand”
I love this because at the time you know they resented us for calling on them when they didn’t raise their hands!
“During this school year I have learned that saying "no" and "i don't agree" -- not just exclamation points !!!! -- is totally OK (thanks Ms. Arca) but this time I really don't think there is anything I can add in this column, because this time, there really IS nothing to say!”
What did your teachers do well (to support and/or challenge you)?
“They were willing to help and had really good and helpful advice and if you didn't ask to meet with them they might ask or hover over your work to help and support you and I liked that.”
“The teachers did well in reminding us that if we need help, you need to ask. I liked this because it got us ready for sixth grade, and made us feel independent. It also made us feel supported to know that we have have help if we need it.”
“One out of the many things the teachers did well to support me this year is non-pushy random check ins because I know that I am the kind of person who doesn't come up to a teacher right away if something is bothering me -- though i probably should! -- and so those non-pushy random check ins are really helpfull for me.”
Nice to hear - obviously we will continue to check in with and push our students, but it’s good to know it is appreciated (eventually). I also find the awareness that learning to ask for help is a life skill impressive.
If you could change something about 5th grade, what would it be? Why?
General trend: more simulations, less homework, don’t change anything!
“I would make more simulations! I loved the simulations, they were so fun, and it was cool to be "in the shoes of" the thing/person/religion you guys are trying to teach us about. Also, it was great to learn things in a fun way.”
Any other thoughts or things you think we should know:
We always ask, just in case, but responses were along the lines of no, 5th grade was great, see my earlier answers.
It’s comforting to hear that students don’t feel confused or overwhelmed by the curriculum and appreciate the honesty and reality. We fully expected storytelling to be a highlight, because it is amazing, but also because it is the last literacy unit of the year and our Final Stage show is the culmination of our year together.
I also wasn’t surprised by the positivity around simulations, but the self-awareness and reflectiveness shown when students were able to say that they had moments of empathy or experiencing someone else’s perspective (although, of course, a simulation is NOT THE SAME as real life).
Asking students for feedback is always surprising, amusing, and gratifying. In this age of all kinds of evaluation systems for teachers, I find that I am the most motivated by my observations, student work or growth, and student feedback. It doesn’t have to be formal or written, but I hope to continue to incorporate student feedback and reflection into my teaching next year. How do you ask for and receive student feedback? How does it inform your teaching, learning, and planning? We'd love to hear!