End-of-the-Year Reflection – Why Student Input Matters
Kids are honest. And more often than not, that’s a good thing. As the end of a school year or academic term closes, use that to your advantage.
Self-reflection is a natural part of teaching. At the end of a unit or lesson we reflect back on what went well, what didn’t, and what needs to be changed for next year. But self-reflection can only get us so far. We need outside perspectives. This is where students come in.
To get a more well-rounded idea of how the school year went, ask students a small set of questions to solicit some answers and guidance as to how to proceed with the next group of students. I’ve picked up some ideas over the years that have helped me and I’d like to share them with you.
Reasons to Give an End of the Year Survey
The Sticking Point
We all have these grand plans with Dead Poets Society - level discussions and lessons, but sometimes they fizzle out or don’t quite work out the way we’d planned. Asking students what they thought of a particular unit, lesson, or discussion will help you gauge what resonated with students and what didn’t. That doesn’t mean if a student didn’t connect with a particular lesson that you should scrap it. But maybe reflect on it and identity ways to rework it so it’s more engaging.
It’s important to note that not all students will love every lesson you teach, nor will they find it fun. And that isn’t the point. The point is student engagement. So don’t worry if students didn’t particularly enjoy a lesson you did. The important thing is that as teachers we reflect on our practice and adjust accordingly.
Agency, Ownership, and Input
Make it a point to let students know that you want them to help shape the next class or next school year. That their input will help guide you as you plan and prepare for the next set of students. If you’ve done this before, point out a specific example where you took input from last years’ students and incorporated it into the course these current students have just finished. You will be surprised at how constructive and useful their responses will be.
Asking students’ input on your teaching and the course material communicates to them that you care about their experiences, you hear them, and affirm that they, too, have agency in what and how they learn.
Here’s the thing, though. You need to actually use their input. Oftentimes, teachers will give an end of the year survey or reflection, but throw it in the trash the minute the kids walk out the door. Don’t be that teacher.
Go for the “Feel Goods"
It can be easy to get sucked into the day-to-day routine of teaching, but I like that the end of the year reflection breaks up this routine and sets aside time for teachers to hear (and read) what they did well. This is not talked about enough. Teachers are humans and humans thrive where they feel supported, seen, and understood. A lot of those feel good moments come from that end-of-the-year reflection where students, in one way or another, tell you how you did. You’d be surprised at how honest, and positive, these reviews can be!
Reading about a student’s experience being in your classroom can be validating and affirming. It can be just the thing you need to keep you in the game and keep you come back for more.
Tips for Writing your Own End-of-the-Year Reflection Assignment
- Be specific in what you’re asking. If you’re looking for students to provide input about a particular unit or lesson, specify this. The more precise and specific your questions, the more valuable the feedback will be to you.
- Consider using a variety of question formats including rating scales, short answer, and multiple choice.
- Before reading your students’ responses, pay attention to your mindset. Are you in a positive mindset? Or are you stressed or feeling a little negative? If you answered “yes” to the latter question, wait to read those responses until you’re in a better state of mind. Trust me, it will be so much better if you do.
What questions do you like to ask your students at the close of an academic term? Feel free to leave questions, comments or concerns in the comment box below and check back every week for more teacher tutorials, tips, and tricks!