Asking students what’s working and what’s not can reveal some interesting patterns and help you improve your teaching skills.

As a new teacher, the best lesson I learned from a veteran teacher was to get feedback from students regularly. My colleague, Duane, used to poll students each Friday: What worked for you this week? Why? What didn’t work for you this week? Why?

Unfortunately, many teachers are afraid to ask students what’s working and what’s not. Perhaps it’s because we’re alone with kids in a room; perhaps because (especially as new teachers) we don’t want to seem weak by asking and thereby implicitly acknowledging that something isn’t going right. However, I can tell you from years of experience as a teacher, coach, and trainer that there is no better way to improve your own performance than getting student feedback.

I’m not saying that everything students say is correct or objective, either in this survey or in your own inquiries. In fact, answers are sometimes a bit inconsistent. It’s feedback, for better or worse; it’s the beginning of a conversation and it can reveal some interesting patterns.

The survey

Over the past six months, with the help of local school staff, I surveyed students at four middle schools and two high schools where we’ve been consultants. These schools are neither a valid cross-section of the United States demographically nor are they “typical” schools since all the schools have been involved in reform work. While some of these results would differ from findings in the “average” school, they parallel findings from the National Study of High School Engagement and John Goodlad’s A Place Called School fairly well. This was an extensive survey: 19 questions, 14 of which required a

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