In the previous posts here, here, here, here, and here, I have summarized student views on a number of current practices. The last question on the survey asked them to provide advice:

Finally, if you could give teachers just 1 piece of advice on how to make their classes and the work more interesting and effective for you and your peers, what would it be?  The advice was quite specific in most cases, rarely foolish or immature, and helpful overall. And much of it underscored earlier complaints about boring and ineffective practices. Often there was a poignant plea for empathy. Have a look:

      • One piece of advice would be to engage the students more by creating activities and interesting projects out of the topic that is being taught, so that the students can have fun AND learn at the same time.
      • Using references to real life uses make it more interesting for the student.
      • Make things Interesting. Instead of lecturing and putting up a powerpoint, plan an activity that will teach us the content so we learn something but also let us have a little fun. I know school isn’t meant to be fun but its not meant to be a boring place where we just write down what we see, study it and then take a test.
      • Give us something to look forward to so we don’t dread going into your class because its going to be boring or too hard.
      • I would like to see more teachers realizing that if the entire class failed a test or quiz or project, it probably has something to do with the way the teacher taught it and they shouldn’t just move on. Also, if some students don’t understand the material, maybe let the students who do go and try teaching it using a different method. My chem teacher did this just a few weeks ago to great success.
      • I would say that teachers need to respond to the specific class of students that they are teaching. No two classes are alike- the mood and setting in each class differs, and the pace at which people learn is different. Paying attention to that will make the class run more smoothly, and ensure that everyone can learn.
      • Make us understand each concept as it is taught, and then move on at the appropriate time.
      • Play more games, have more fun! still learn but really enjoy doing it by making it fun and interesting.
      • Give less homework just for the sake of giving homework. It makes students detest REAL (important) work.
      • I would say to change things up a bit. Many times I go into class knowing exactly what we are going to do and that is extremely boring. The less bored I am, the more I will pay attention and comprehend the material.
      • More hands-on or real life demonstrations. For many reasons, these capture attention so much more effectively than powerpoints or projections.
      • Be enthusiastic about what you are teaching, and listen to us when we say we have 6 other projects that we have to do this weekend.
      • Try to provide students with a legitimate reason for why they should know what you are teaching them and let them apply these skills in real life situations. Also, try not to sound so monotonous.
      • Explain how their lesson or work is important to students in the future.
      • Variety. Don’t always do the same thing every class. Make sure that you mix it up and use different medias. If need be, get the class moving around and thinking as they move.
      • I would like more variety in the lesson plans.
      • Step into our shoes and ask yourself if what you are teaching or how your teaching is actually interesting, and would we want to learn it.
      • Give us more hands on work, it keeps kids awake and interested.
      • Use a variety of teaching methods. Videos, textbooks, lectures, and many other teaching methods can be productive, but when you use only a couple different types of methods, students get bored. When any student falls asleep, that should be a sign. If they’re falling asleep, I guarantee they’re not the only one.
      • Also, assigning different types of work would be good too.
      • Stop just lecturing me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      • Try to make the class more fun and entertaining. And try not to talk too much and get on a different subject.
      • Do more interactive activities with the students because then we will like to come to class every day.
      • Don’t just spit information, make it more exciting for us to learn
      • Try to make sure every different lesson has a fun activity that really gets students to pay attention.
      • Add more activities and think about what we could do to make us learn more. We learn more not through worksheets or sitting in class listening to lessons and facts.
      • Try to have more hands on projects…it’s really hard for students to sit in a desk for 90 minutes. Maybe let us get up and walk around.
      • My advice would be to put in your whole personality into it.
      • Teachers should offer more opportunity for discussion to make class more interactive and to involve as many students as possible.
      • Try to communicate with the students more. Take the students advice on how to make the class better.
      • USE LESS POWER-POINTS.
      • Please help us to actually succeed. Don’t cater to only the supposedly “smart kids” but help everyone succeed
      • Vary the structure of class and different kinds of activities to keep kids interested
      • Dont use the smart board as much. its very obnoxious.
      • Do more activities and less pointless busy work!
      • Think of themselves as a kid sitting in class, listening to a teacher.
      • Actually show us how to do what you want us to do its much better
      • Less talking and busywork
      • Overall, make sure you have an open mind about who you are about to teach, how you can help them, and why you want to teach them?
      • If I could give teachers just one piece of advice on how to make their classes and the work more interesting I would tell them that they need to have time to work with people individually, because not every student is going to be outgoing enough to raise their hand and ask a question.
      • More hands on activity
      • More interactive things to do.
      • Ask students what would be more interesting them
      • DON’T TEACH STRAIGHT FROM THE BOOK!!!!!
      • To make their classes much more effective, I would like to have peer discussions. This allows people to open up and share their ideas more, and allows the students to be more independent.
      • Don’t get mad at a student for asking a question.. There are a lot of teachers who get angry and show it through their teaching.
      • I would say to just remember that we are still kids and sometimes we need help and don’t understand everything. Try to help us more, not just make us feel extremely dumb.
      • If you see that none of us are paying attention, try to change the way you teach it to us.
      • To take a personal interest in the students if they can. It makes me feel like I have help when I am in a difficult situation.
      • Let the students lead some discussions to make it easier to understand with the viewpoint of another peer, and simply guide the discussion along so it goes well.
      • Give us more creative projects and essays.
      • I think that if a majority of the class gets a bad grade on a test or quiz, the teacher should realized that they didnt understand the concept that was needed to be known, the teacher either needs to curve the grades, not make it count as much, or dont count it at all.
      • Ask us if we do not understand. More than half the time when we are quiet we are thinking about other things and not what was discussed because we don’t get it. Examples go a long way to help elaborate things.
      • Don’t just lecture. Try to get the class involved, but make sure it’s not in elementary ways. Some activities are for kids much younger than us and are just pointless and stupid for us to complete.
      • Change up the way you teach once in a while. Taking notes on the reading and then going over them in class and then assigning them for homework and then after 7 homeworks of that having a quiz on it is not fun what so ever.
      • I just want teachers to think how they can make the class interesting! not just to talk about the subject, not just give us assignments, but make it exciting, make us try, make us wonder. I think teachers should use different tactics in class, do not spend all the class doing the same thing but read a little bit, work in pairs, then discuss, then write a bit, then share works, then watch slides, then make our own slides. Mix it, put it together. That’s it.
      • Try to involve what the students opinion is on the topic at hand in class.
      • Creating more class discussions involves everyone in this. Instead of having boring lectures, have debates in class or get the input on what the students are feeling about the topic at hand in the class.
      • Listen to what we understand and do not understand. Sometimes classes just fly over material that a majority of the class does not understand.
      • Listen to the students. I understand that there is material that needs to be covered, but the students know how they learn and how they could benefit from the material the most. Suggestions from the students could be pretty useful, especially in year long classes.
      • Never assume that just because one person gets it that the whole class gets it.
      • Try and not just take everything from the text book, try comparing it to everyday things so we have a broader understanding of the subject. A lot of the time teachers just tell us to copy notes, then test us on it.
      • I AM A PERSON, NOT JUST A STUDENT!! When we ask a question, ANSWER it. Dont move on after you think you’ve answered it. Ask if we did and explain if we did not. Getting a teacher’s attention to even ask a question is considered a rare occurance.
      • Dear teachers please try to remember being a teenager. Remember how you despised taking long notes or doing the work but not getting the grade. JUST REMEMBER!
      • Make it spontaneous. Pick a day to go to the computer lab and construct our own geometrical figures, or find some models or materials to have the class make their own models. do activities that involve us standing up and moving about (labs!) and just anything interesting that will keep the kids in the corner from falling asleep on their desk.
      • I would ask for more discussions than just note taking and being expected to just know the information. For example, my science teacher. I love her to death, but she gives us so many worksheets to do and we have so many notes per unit that it just overwhelms me. And each unit is like 2 to 3 chapters at one time, and we don’t always get to the information, we just go straight to testing. So I would change the approach of the lesson and talk more in depth
      • Find out what WE like. Treat us like people. We are teenagers and most of us have opinions but we don’t get to share them and if we did then we either get in trouble or ignored and I am sick of it. Also, find out how we learn best. Some people learn slower than other and maybe if class was directed in a different way, we would do better.
      • Don’t make your classes revolve around only taking notes.

Pretty good advice, I’d say. Both these answers and the ones from the last post make clear the oldest idea in the world: typical lectures and note-taking are too frequent and too ineffective; a bad habit. Check out a recent piece in the New York Times, aptly titled Death Knell for the Lecture, that makes clear how more learning can occur via brief online videos on model of the Khan Academy “flip” as does a recent Harvard newsletterEric Mazur proved this in his physics teaching 12 years ago. Stunningly, in the face of common sense, research, and technological options, many HS teachers simply don’t change. It’s not merely unfortunate; it’s disrespectful and unprofessional; it’s malpractice.

I hope that these blunt words – and all the previous posts on the students’ responses – have the desired effect: it is well past time that secondary teachers use precious class time more effectively to achieve goals. And, as I have repeatedly noted, if you are interested in giving the survey locally, just contact me.

 

PS: Nice blog post on edutopia about using student feedback.

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