Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Process Discussions

by AJ

"Describe the ideal English class".

"Grade you current teachers and classes, including me"

"Design your own course"

These are a few of the small group projects I gave to students last semester. I hoped to get a bit of insight into students needs. What I got was a wealth of feedback.... a treasure trove of ideas and direct opinions.

Surveys and "teacher evaluations" are lame. They come at the end of the course, when its too late to do anything about the feedback. They are restricted by narrow, admin-designed questions. Students, for the most part, think they are ignored. And from a tutoring perspective.... I rarely find anything useful in them. Usually they are filled with vague statements such as "Great class".

But in-class discussion can be very productive. By using the above questions as a starting point... I encouraged students to discuss their needs and desires. They told me what worked, what didnt, what they hated, and what they loved. I was surprised by their honesty (and thrilled).

Perhaps this worked because I presented this discussion as a hypothetical project. I didnt say, "give me feedback on my class". In fact, I have tried that and all I got was silence.

What works better is to break the class into small groups... and give them a design or evaluation challenge. You can even make it competitive,... for example, "Let's see which group can design the best English course. We'll vote at the end of class".

When students present their ideas, pump them for details. Ask about specific assignments, specific activities, reasons for their suggestions. Ask them about past experiences with English classes.... all in the context of the "mini-project".

This worked for me and it worked BIG! Another uncontested success!

Give it a try.