I always find it helpful to ask students to share their experiences of the year—the good, the not so good, the ideas for improvement for next year, anything else that feels relevant to share. I think it’s helpful to ask for student reflections throughout the year too (e.g., the end of each unit, after introducing a new protocol). So, let’s think about how you could ask your students to reflect on this school year.
What to Ask
What did you miss most about in-person classes? (You can make sure you do more of whatever it is kids missed next year.)
What were the best parts of distance learning? (There’s a chance we’ll be continuing remote learning to some degree next year, so, note what worked for students and do more of that in the future. Of course, different students may say different things, so consider ways to provide multiple options for engagement so all students can have an opportunity to engage in the way that works for them.)
What was difficult for you during distance learning? (Depending on how you word this question, you may get some responses that are out of your control. Focus on what you can control and identify possible areas of support you can offer in the future.)
If we had to do the last 3 months all over again, what would you want me (as the teacher) to do differently to help you learn better? (Students often come up with great ideas here. List them all out, and remember some students’ responses may contradict one another, so offer choice where possible as you plan how you’ll implement these suggestions in the future.)
What else do you want me to know? (You can be specific here and focus on students’ personal experiences during the year, the best part of the year, what you hope for next year, etc.)
Feel free to make the questions your own and add others, but I would start with these basic concepts (successes, challenges, and suggestions).
How to Ask
Students could respond to these questions in a variety of ways.
Worksheet or Journal Entry. Students could complete a worksheet set up as a Google Doc (or Word Doc) with space to respond to each of these questions. Even more open-ended, you can provide the questions as journal prompts and have students write a journal entry addressing these in whatever way and to whatever degree they wish.
Form. You could create a Google Form (or Microsoft Form) with these questions set up for open-ended responses or prefill checkbox options, so students can have a list of ideas to choose from if you think they may struggle to come up with ideas on their own. I suggest leaving space for elaboration in the form of an open-ended response question following each checkbox-type question. An added benefit of having the checkbox options is that you can see a graphic representation of the data, which helps you pick out the trends more easily, and you could share these visuals with your students.
Here’s a free, Google Form template you can adapt and send to your students:
Note: When you sign up for this resource, you will get access to a Google Drive folder with the form inside. You don’t need to open the form. Instead, you will right-click on the form and select “Make a Copy.” This way, you can make it your own! (I know this is clunky, but right now, it’s the only way I know of to share a form, as there is currently no view-only link sharing option in Google Forms.)
Video. Students can respond to the prompts using a tool like Flipgrid, which will support your students who may struggle with writing to provide their ideas. If you want responses to be private, you can select the grid setting to require you to approve the videos before other students can see them, and then just don’t approve any videos. If you did want to share the video reflections with families or your administrators, you have the option to add each video to a “Mixtape” and share out the compilation of responses.
Subject-Specific Representation. Students could create a piece of art that represents the year and caption it in a way that addresses the question. Students could create a math equation or recipe for the best ingredients for learning from home. Students could write a song or a poem about their experience. Get creative here!
Student Choice. While we’re talking about student voice, you could also provide each of the above options (plus additional options you come up with) as choices on a choice board. Students can choose which way to share their feedback. You could also provide students with a “free choice” space where they come up with a creative way to share their responses to these reflection questions.
Once you’ve collected all of your data, share the wealth of student knowledge with other teachers! Share themes that came out of student reflections in the comments below or in our Time for Teachership Facebook group.
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Lindsay Lyons (she/her) is an educational justice coach who works with teachers and school leaders to inspire educational innovation for racial and gender justice, design curricula grounded in student voice, and build capacity for shared leadership. Lindsay taught in NYC public schools, holds a PhD in Leadership and Change, and is the founder of the educational blog and podcast, Time for Teachership.