Guest: A Chance to Collaborate, Learn About our Class, and Set Goals for the Future

Margaret Cieply, a third grade teacher in Colorado, used the Panorama Student Survey to elicit feedback from her students. Reading Mrs. Cieply’s reflections on integrating feedback into her classroom thrilled all of us at Panorama, and we were particularly impressed with how Mrs. Cieply used the survey results as a conversation-starter and math lesson with her students. Mrs. Cieply’s blog post is an example of how asking small groups of students for feedback can be transformative. We thank her for inviting us to share her blog post with you here!

When browsing educational sites on Twitter, I stumbled across a new student survey…instantly I knew this was something I wanted to try with our class. I had tried other types of student surveys in grad school before teaching, but this survey seemed to most align with our work on restorative practice, the desire to build a collaborative class community, the opportunity to empower students and give them a voice, as well as an attempt to measure some of the 21st century skills we’ve been working on like resiliency and problem solving.

This past month our class finally had a chance to take this anonymous students survey created by Panorama. Panorama Education is a tech start-up designed to allow K-12 schools the opportunity to collect, analyze and act on feedback collected from a variety of sources…in our case, students. What first started out as a way for me to find out how the class feels about my teaching, the material we’re covering, as well as the level of comfort they feel in both my classroom and the school, ended up to be so much more!

At first, our class was so nervous! They said things like “What if you get mad at the results?” or “What if the results make you sad?” I told them this was finally a chance for them to be completely honest, and for that I’d never be mad. I let them know the results will help me to learn more about how they truly felt, and would also help me to know what’s working well and what I need to do differently to make them feel even more successful as the year progresses. Because we talked so much about the importance of having accurate results, they took the survey very seriously.

Our answers revealed so much about how everyone is feeling. Some questions focused on my teaching, like how clearly I communicate information, how interesting the material I present is, how pleasant my mood is on most days, and how often I make them explain their answers. Additional questions asked how they felt about their own learning, like how likely they were to complete a difficult task if they knew it would help them reach a goal, how likely they were to try again if they failed the first time, and how important school is to them. Finally, other questions asked more serious opinions about how students feel about the respect others give them at school, how accepted they feel, and how much support the other adults at school give them.One of my highlights was a student who came up to me privately a few days after we took the survey. This student revealed the rating for one of the more serious questions, and it led to a beautiful, meaningful conversation in which I learned so much more about how this student felt. Without the survey, I’m not sure this conversation would have come up naturally. The Panorama Student Survey is most definitely a platform for honest communication and data that any teacher would be happy to gain.

The data was so amazing, I didn’t want it to stop with my interpretations. Since we’re currently in a math unit focusing on data collection, representation and interpretation, I wanted my students to understand how real people use important data to inform and help plan goals for the future. I wanted the students to create graphs showing the results to the different questions. This would help them learn about creating titles, categories, labeling the x- and y-axis, and learning how data looks in a variety of graphs (specifically bar and circle graphs). This would also allow them to start practicing interpreting data.

The first day I asked if there were any students who already felt like experts of making graphs on the computer. Those six students helped lead small groups, and each group focused on graphing one of the questions. I realized that while a few have a strong background on graphing, many needed additional support.

The second day I taught four students how to create graphs on Create a Graph Classic. They practiced for about thirty minutes and then led small groups of three until they ended up teaching the whole class how to create graphs. During this time, I worked with pairs to help interpret the results. Each pair had to look at a graph created by their peers and write down three things the graph taught them. For example, “I noticed that 17 students feel that Mrs. Cieply’s mood is extremely pleasant on most days.” After writing down their three statements, they had to write suggestions for me or their classmates, depending on who the question was about. This was my favorite part! Unbelievably, even though we are at the very beginning of learning about data, students were able to capture the big ideas from each graph and tell me the parts that I should be happy with, and give me suggestions for the parts where students rated me lower.

For example, one of the questions asked, “When your teacher asks ‘how are you?’, how often do you feel that your teacher really wants to know your answer?” For this question, there were eight students who said almost never or not very often. This data was extremely concerning to me. The students who interpreted this graph suggested that I add some additional follow up questions along the lines of “How was your weekend?” or “Can you tell me something that you’re really excited about?” to continue the conversation and show students that I really am interested. I thought these were amazing suggestions, and now I am going to make a point to listen even more closely and ask follow up questions, even when I’m in a hurry. When we take the survey again, I’m hoping the results improve.

Overall, I am blown away by how much this one survey has made such a positive impact on our classroom community. Over the last three days of creating and interpreting graphs, I feel like our class has moved to the next level of being able to communicate with each other. I’m hoping that students know and understand that I value their opinions and will take their suggestions seriously. In terms of math learning, many have already reflected and said that at first the data looked really scary and that now they feel confident creating and interpreting graphs. Some even created graphs of their own at home charting data for their own independent questions!

Margaret Cieply is a third grade teacher who blogs about teaching, parent communication, and reading skills for students.

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