Student surveys are a cornerstone of my instructional practice. My students take a survey once or twice each month to reflect on their learning and classroom experiences as well as to provide me with valuable feedback.
After years of surveys, I have tried many questions and question types and have found some that lead to better feedback than others. This post focuses on the reasoning behind those 15 questions. I would love to hear about your favorite student survey questions in the comments!
If you have questions on how to write a great student survey, take a look at Survey Your Students. Let’s get started.
What do you want to learn?
The original question. It’s basically the “Doctor Who?” of student survey questions. I like to ask this question, just “What do you want to learn?,” in the first weeks of school to get a feel for student interests and expectations.
In later units, I might tell them about the standards and learning targets for the next unit, and ask them what they want to learn surrounding those topics. Their feedback gives me an idea of which topics to spend more time on or to add to our upcoming unit.
Who do you want to sit with?
I stole this one straight from Glennon Doyle Melton’s blog at Momastery.com. I read this post a few years ago and took it to heart. Now I survey my students about whom they want to sit with often and try to be responsive to their wants and needs. They feel heard, and I learn who needs a friend and who has all the friends.
Even when I end up asking students to choose their own seats, I ask this question to get a feel for the social undercurrents in our classroom.
What made you feel successful? What was difficult?
If students are struggling to name a moment where they felt successful, why is that? Is this a particularly difficult class for them, are the directions unclear, is the pace too fast?
Alternatively, if students cannot name a moment that was difficult, the assignments or learning may not be challenging enough. This question helps to inform differentiation.
Lastly, if students all feel successful or were challenged on certain topics, this can help to inform lesson planning and reteaching.
What were your favorite and least favorite lessons?
This questions helps me figure out what lessons I need to update or change the format of, and which lessons are going well. Keep in mind that the wording of this questions asks students about their favorite and least favorite lesson, not which lessons were most valuable to their learning.
Be prepared, student responses to this question can be vague. If you are expecting them to name specific lessons, I would recommend providing them with a drop-down menu of options in the student survey. Otherwise, you will get answers like “stars” or “earthquakes.”
What are your strengths? Where do you have room to improve?
There is never enough time to spend on metacognition. Students and teachers are often so deep inside the learning experience that taking time to back away and reflect on the big picture is rare.
This question can also show which students think they have it all figured out (and some do), and show which students have low self-esteem and may need encouragement.
What are your teacher’s strengths? Where could your teacher improve?
If you are asking your students to reflect on their performance, you need to be prepared to reflect on your own. Most of my personal and professional growth has been a direct result of these questions. Let’s be honest, student feedback can be hard to hear. However, students are honest and recognize that if you improve as a teacher their experience improves as well. I would recommend talking about the difference between complaining and constructive criticism during the first survey to make sure that students understand your expectations for these types of questions.
After my very first survey seven years ago, I had to figure out what a teacher voice was after students complained that I was too quiet and lacked authority. I continue to work on how I explain concepts and ideas in multiple ways for all types of learners. Students often ask for more time to learn and this has helped me think about student choice in the classroom and flexible time frames for learning.
What types of assignments do you learn from? What types of assignments do you enjoy?
I always ask these two questions together. Recently, I got even more specific, and ask them about questions in Pear Deck. You can see their responses below. While my students don’t love writing slides, they felt that writing slides helped them learn more than any other type of slide.
Sometimes the classroom experiences that students enjoy and helps them learn are the same, but if not, it can be eye-opening for them to think about prioritizing one or the other. It’s important for students to start thinking about the learning experiences that work for them.
How much time do you spend on homework?
Homework is controversial and I really had no idea how much time and effort students were devoting to my class until I starting asking them. Sometimes I ask them general questions like the one below; other questions have been very specific about when, where, and how long students work on homework for my class.
The following chart shows recent responses about the amount of homework in Earth Science, with 1 being “Not enough homework, I need more practice” to “Too much homework, it’s impossible to get done”. I intentionally made this a 4-option question rather than a 5-option question to ensure that they couldn’t just be neutral in their response. It will be important to identify and spend time with the 4 students who are completely overwhelmed and also create more practice opportunities for students who are interested in having more practice.
How does this class contribute to your stress level?
I want to create a classroom environment where students are challenged to reach their potential with appropriate scaffolds in place to prevent this from being a highly stressful experience. I hope for them to feel uncomfortable in their learning but not anxious or panicked. The only way to know if this is actually happening is to ask my students.
What is your opinion about the amount and types of technology used in class?
The goal of using technology in the classroom is to move beyond substitution and impact student learning and improve the learning experience. I can certainly look at test scores to determine the impact of technology (devices or specific apps), but hearing from students is also important.
I ask students about how they feel using Socrative, Pear Deck, and Instagram impact their learning and about how often we use technology in the classroom. Depending on their responses, I can increase or decrease the frequency with which we use certain types of technology. I can also add or eliminate certain types of technology based on their responses. For example, my students were enthusiastic about Kahoot in a recent survey, so I am planning to give this a try!
What would your dream classroom look like?
This question is just plain fun. This student survey question really surprises some students and their responses often surprise me! Some students will ask for candy and loud music, others think about furniture, but their hopes and dreams for their current classroom are illuminating. Sometimes their lack of ideas also says a lot about how they feel towards your class and school in general.
What kind of rewards would fit our classroom?
Meaningful rewards in high school are difficult! When you eliminate candy and recess, there aren’t many cheap options left. The best way to come up with rewards for students that are meaningful to them is to ask them. It’s fun to give them free rein with this question just to see what they say, while other times it’s fun to ask them to think about rewards that aren’t candy or leaving class early.
What teachers do you think your teacher could learn from?
The first time I asked this question in a student survey, I asked students which other teachers I should go observe. They were so confused by the idea of my wanting to observe another teacher and why I would do so that many just wrote “I don’t know.” When I changed the wording to reflect my interest in learning from other teachers, the responses turned from confusion into valuable recommendations. You can read their enthusiasm in exclamation points and all-caps text.
These responses give me an idea of what they are enjoying in other classrooms. Even if they enjoy what is going on in my classroom, I am interested in learning about routines, instructional methods, and technology that are working in other classrooms.
It’s also a positive way to talk to another educator about their practice and get into their classroom. Instead of saying, “Can I observe you?” which sounds evaluative, I can just say “My students said that I could learn from you, could I drop in during one of your classes?” This is less threatening and opens the door for conversation rather than judgement.
What else do you want your teacher to know about you?
I stole this one, too! This time from a local teacher in Denver who made the news sharing student responses to “I wish my teacher knew…”. The responses from her students were eye-opening and I have had the same experience when adding this question to student surveys. In just the past week, students have responded to this prompt to let me know:
- About a student who was bothering them.
- One student was struggling to get their school supplies as they switched between the homes of separated parents.
- What is stressing them out and how I can help to lighten the load.
- They appreciate that they can redo assignments that were difficult or late.
My favorite response so far: “I may indeed act up quite a bit but as immature and troublesome as I may seem I do respect you as a teacher and a person and truly enjoy this class.”
What questions should we ask in the next survey?
Students share so much good information in their answers, but I never know if I am asking the questions that they want to answer or truly getting at what my students want me to know. I hope that their question ideas will spark new ideas for surveys and improve learning, communication, and the community that we build in the classroom.
- If you loved these survey questions, share the awesome infographic below to get more teachers thinking about student surveys!
- Please share your experience surveying students in the comments. What are your favorite questions to ask your students? I am always looking for new ideas!