Feedback. My turn.

I feel a little bit guilty trashing my friends’ news feeds on Facebook and Instagram with more and more and yet more exultant updates about Japan and the impact it has left for me. This could hopefully be one of the posts to make up for the inconvenience.

On Sunday October 27th at JALT2013 Mike Griffin, Kevin Stein and I gave a workshoppy kind of a long paper presentation on student feedback. The Ideal Team have been way better at  letting you know all about it than me, so  I really encourage you to do the following reading on the topic:

Giving/ Getting Good Feedback Takes ______ (fill in the blank) by Kevin, with a sufficient list of posts for further reading and some juicy comments in the thread

Why I (often) prefer non-anonymous feedback and 8 Stories about feedback by Mike, and whether you know how Mike writes or don’t know, you must check these

Since everything has been said and done, I should be finishing my post now.

But you know, it’s the beginning of November. It’s mid-term feedback time!=)

I felt itchy to try out some new mechanism of collecting feedback out of the numerous mechanisms we discussed before, during and after our presentation.  But I remain true to myself, almost (which fact is very characteristic of how slow I am at processing information I get at conferences… I might be hopeful to try feedback another way in a month or so). It’s a more or less standard set of questions for me, but this time I’m saving class time and a tree and use Linoit.com.

There’s my attitude to collecting feedback: I like to make students see they can help shape their learning, and at the same time be more aware of the whole process, not just passively consume knowledge. Feedback goes both ways (I second Rose Bard on that). It so does, in my perception of what a classroom is. So I have thought about sharing my mid-term feedback. My turn, I’ve been learning too.
* Which tasks/ activities were useful? Useless? Why?

I”ve found really useful to do follow-up writing activities after speaking ones. On the whole, being more consistent with writing is a good tendency for me.
* Which task/ activity would you like to do again? (or try something new?)
I’d like to keep experimenting with videos. To save time they watch videos of their choice at home, post links in our shared Google Doc (so that we can all then access them and check what sparked interest or conversation during the lesson) and then come to class ready to talk about the videos. By further experimenting I mean various ways to work on the material in class.

I’d like to use images more constructively.

I’d like to find a comfortable way and good reasons to record them speak.

I’d like to make a better+more frequent use of some activities from Teaching Grammar Creatively book I bought this summer.

* Which task/ activity would you not like to repeat in our classes again?
Maybe I should cut down time we spend on the warmers.

My inefficient, inexperienced way to do dogme style should not be repeated too, but rather improved.

I respect my students for being honest. After the Q-A session about Japan last Thursday I asked them to write sort of a summary of what they learnt at that lesson and their impression in general. One of the students wrote it was good, interesting and informative BUT it’s boring to speak about one and the same topic for 90 minutes!! Look, he’s right. It’s solid feedback.
* What do you remember best from these 2 months of studying English? What have you learnt?
I was amazed by my students’ choice of presentation topics. With them being future scientists but still very much teens, I expected talks about technology, computer games, rock/pop bands  and travel. Can you imagine my astonishment when a good forth of them all presented on classical music and literature?! Out of their own interest, because they listen to classical music in their dorm rooms when they study. So they spoke with zest and enthusiasm, doing their best. Sharing some of the music pieces later on in our study group in social network. They were excellent,even if their language or presentation skills not always were (but that’s what I’m in the room for). I was actually inspired to write this post when I opened the group this morning and played this track from one of the presentations, and it’s been on repeat for a good hour and a half.

Another very memorable moment also happened during one of the presentations. V. was speaking about social networks. Sorry, he wasn’t too ready and the last slide about Facebook was plain text. After he finished actually reading it, another student (another V.) raised a hand and asked: “Did you actually use Google Translate to get this text?” Silence. Laughter. He did.

What did it mean for me?

1) V. the presenter didn’t copy&paste a bunch of text from Wikipedia. He actually typed a paragraph of his own (probably) text in Russian into Google Translate.

2) V. the listener noticed how differently the language functioned in a paragraph from Google Translate. That is pretty amazing, if you ask me.
* Any other comments.

I felt rather insecure several times dealing with casual student remarks about our classes (I wrote about some of the most recent ones here). It meant a perfect chance to see myself through *some of* their eyes, which is painful but beneficial in the end.

I didn’t feel trapped by the syllabus even though this term I stick to it more than I normally do.

I’m trying to get better at teaching grammar, tiny steps, small change.

That’s my feedback, and it feels important to do it for the first time. Feedback goes both ways.

Here’s the lino wall my students will be leaving their feedback on. Same questions as I just answered myself.

Thanks for reading! Enjoy your days.

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10 thoughts on “Feedback. My turn.

  1. Graham Jones says:

    A great post – and some great links/further reading, too, thank you!!

    Do you have any thoughts on bringing students together in small ‘focus groups’ for feedback?

    • Graham Jones says:

      Hi again Anna! I just read an excellent thought that a colleague left on your FB page about this piece: “Sometimes our students come up with surprising comments: ‘interesting …, but boring’!”

      I love that student’s comment! A brilliant example of what a fiendishly complicated business feedback can be (for teachers AND students). Sometimes, a focus group approach to feedback can be a useful way to really ‘dig down’ and get closer to what’s *really* going on in students’ minds.

      • annloseva says:

        Graham,

        Thanks for getting back with this comment. Interesting but boring is a fun comment indeed, quite explanatory)
        I’m interested in focus groups. Have you tried this approach?

  2. Graham Jones says:

    Hi Anna! (By the way, is it Anna or Ann? I keep seeing both! 🙂 )

    I’m not an expert on focus groups, but I really like the way this kind of approach can trigger ‘flashes’ of insight.

    During one group discussion, for example, a student said that he wasn’t using things he learned in the classroom in his job. Why not? He didn’t know. He understood everything, he said, and it was all very useful & relevant stuff. Then why wasn’t he using it? “I really don’t know,” he said, and he screwed up his face in intense thought.

    I said something like “Relax, take your time”, at which point his eyes flashed open and he cried “That’s it, that’s it! In here, I can always take my time. But out there, I can’t. If I want to say something in a meeting and I spend 5 seconds thinking about it, I lose the chance to say anything. In here, we have too much time!”

    It was a great comment, which had some of the other students looking puzzled, but then nodding their heads in agreement. So we then had an interesting discussion about how we could change things (eg, introducing quick-fire exercises).

    The point is: it was a critical flash of insight, but it needed a focus group kind of approach to trigger it.

    • annloseva says:

      Graham,

      Anna is my full name, Ann is just to make it short. Either of them is fine with me))

      Your story is amazing! It’s perfect to show also how different a classroom is from real life.

      I’m tempted now more than before to try feedback in focus groups. Will read more about how to implement it best and try out at some point before the term ends.

      Thanks a lot!!

  3. Daljit Kaur says:

    Hi Anna
    I really enjoyed your post. I work in a college in Scotland where we really value our students’ feedback. We’ve made many changes to our teaching and syllabus based on students’ comments.
    Keep posting!

    • annloseva says:

      Hi Daljit

      Thank you for stopping by and reading my post. It’s really interesting to learn there are schools like yours that make practical changes based on feedback, that’s an amazing practice, I think!

      Ann

  4. Rose Bard says:

    Like I said over on FB.. I love going back to the post I’ve already read and learn something new. 😉 just a note I’ve been here. 🙂

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