So as we approached the end of the semester I thought that it would be appropriate to go out and ask my students for some feedback on the seminars we’ve done together so far. I wanted to get their feedback before the Easter break so that I could spend some time studying it and incorporating it into our remaining classes next semester. Previously I’ve printed copies of a short questionnaire that I devised and asked the students to complete them during the class but this invariably takes time away from the seminar so this time I decided to try using Survey Monkey and emailing the link to the students to complete in their own time.
I used the same questions but found the response rate was lower than I’d hoped (about 50%) even after sending some gentle reminders. That said, the responses were more detailed, perhaps as the students didn’t feel rushed, they were able to write longer responses. Additionally I didn’t have to navigate any issues with reading handwriting so that was handy. In future, I will use this method again but only when teaching a large group(s) of students as with the lower response rate, in a small class this could mean only getting a couple of responses back.
I explained to the students that their responses would be anonymous in order to encourage them to be as honest as possible and the results can be found HERE. Key points which were raised are listed below with my reflections.
Q1 & 2. What have you found most/least enjoyable about the seminars?
The students seem to be generally enjoying my seminars though some students enjoy reviewing the reading at the start of the class, and others don’t. I suppose you will always get different levels of enjoyment for different elements of the class but it’s tricky to know what to do when there is mixed feedback as there was for these questions so I wonder if I should change the wording going forward or just not include them at all as the questions about what students found most ‘helpful’ yield more consistent feedback that is easier to utilise.
That said a couple of things came up across the responses
- Generally the students prefer smaller group work as it allows them to get more involved. This is something I had realised after the first few classes and have not rectified by ensuring that group work is limited to groups of around 4 people
- Some students were concerned about the lack of debate or discussion/ lack of participation. This is something I am aware of too and is tricky because I want to encourage more people to join in with the floor discussions but am keen not to end up putting students on the spot. I am going to research this further and see if I can find some techniques to try as I have found that the ‘staged debate’ format doesn’t seem to work at all.
Q3 & 4. What have you found most/least useful?
Nearly all of the students said that they find the Prezis I use in, and distribute after, my seminars useful so this is something that I will continue doing. A number of students also said that they found discussing the reading useful, so it would seem that although some don’t enjoy doing this, they see the value in it and this is something for me to consider. Perhaps I will continue using this activity but try mixing it up a bit as I have in previous weeks to keep it fresh.
Students found the creative tasks like poster making to be the least useful so I will try and use these tasks less, or make it clearer why we are doing them to help the students understand how they are designed to get them thinking about broader themes and help them remember information. Additionally there were some who found the group work repetitive so I am going to try and address this by being more hands on, when they are doing group work.
Q5. What has been the most valuable thing you have learned in the seminars?
Many of the students noted that they had found the work we had done on essay writing valuable which I suppose surprised me because its the kind of thing I used to hate doing as a student partially because it always seemed so dry, but also because I never personally found essay sessions helpful as I didn’t understand how to apply what we were being told so I am reassured that my students have valued my approach to essay skills and will keep this in mind when we talk about preparing for the exam.
Q6. Is there anything you would like us to start doing in the seminars that we are not doing at present?
Key things here were a desire for more debate which as mentioned is something I am going to think about how to best address. Additionally the students want some more information on their upcoming exam so I have asked them to email me their questions and concerns and have raised these with the module leader. I will do an exam clinic with them next semester after we’ve had a teachers meeting about the exam and the module lead will also be discussing the exam in one of the lectures so I think that this will be well covered.
One student said that they would like to be able to cover things in more detail and this again is something for me to think about. I am always telling students in their essays that it is best to focus on a couple of topics in detail, than to discuss lots of things broadly, but in seminars this is invariably what we end up doing to some extent. Its difficult to try and cover all of the material in the time but I am going to see if I can think of how we might be able to work more detailed study into our classes.
Q7. Is there anything we should stop doing?
Again a couple of comments re the reading exercise but additionally one student commented on the amount of reading they have to do in weeks where I have assigned more than one topic. I think that this is a fair comment as it is essentially double the reading. I usually only assign one, but some weeks it is useful to look at two so that we can make comparisons, however, in future if I’m assigning one topic I think I’ll choose specific texts from each topic for the students to look at to try and reduce the workload a little and ensure that everyone has read the same material.
Q8. Do you have any other feedback on the seminars – content, or teaching?
Some generally nice feedback here which is always good to receive and reassuring for me. Again a few students mentioned the group sizes and also the desire to look at things in more detail but generally the students seem happy with the classes and the support I am giving them