Sunday, January 05, 2014

End of Semester Surveys

Our administration reminds us every semester that every class must give a survey to every student and then share the responses with our department chair. I think this is a great idea, and I love to sift through the student reflections, and I'm SO HAPPY the admin reminds me WAY ahead of time. This is because without fail, I always forget to give the survey, and then I'm scrambling to hand them out on paper to the students either on a finals review day or GASP maybe even one time during the final (no! that can't be true can it?).

Anyway, my clever department chair mentioned doing the surveys online, and I tried that this semester. We did it in class, since I have laptops. I don't know if I would have had 100% responses if it was a homework assignment. SOLD! I think the students took more time to answer the questions, and I couldn't distinguish their handwriting, so it was pretty anonymous (though some revealed themselves on purpose), so maybe that helped. I do take some time, though, no matter how I give them out, to talk about the great life skill of giving constructive criticism versus negative feedback that is not helpful.

Blah blah blah. Dear Google Docs Forms, Thank you for being easy to create and send out and read anytime anywhere.

Here were my AP Calculus Questions for the Form, and some of the answers with my thoughts.


1. Things you liked/disliked about calculus and class in general (think about daily activities or the class as a whole).

I liked being able to discuss with peers while doing homework because it gave us the opportunity to work together on harder problems instead of giving up. The ability for me to be motivated and actually have intriguing discussions completely depended on who I was seated with. For this last section of the semester, I was next to two people who generally got the concepts so if I was stuck on a homework or didn't understand a concept I didn't feel like I would ask them about it.

This is a problem I haven't mastered yet. I totally get not feeling comfortable asking your table mates  for help because you feel stupid. Part of me wants to say, "figure out a solution" and part of me wants to jump in and spend lots of time on seating arrangements and part of me wants to do a warm fuzzy table bonding activity so there is love spread all around. 
Some questions on flipped lessons (good/bad) and improving the Haiku experience.

5. What surprised you about calculus?

It is nothing like Pre- Calculus. Although it is math Pre-Calc is like the thinnest base ever for what you do in calculus.
Agreed! It does seem to me that labeling the class we teach as "precalculus" is a misnomer. I mean basically everything then would be precalculus because it comes before calculus. I love precal, and maybe a better name would be "all the cool stuff that you haven't learned in the other math classes and you won't see in calculus but we want you to be exposed to math", though I guess that wouldn't fit on the schedule box size.

I was surprised at how difficult calculus was for me. Previously, I was able to succeed in math by putting in extra work effort and simply working hard. In calculus, though, it doesn't seem to be enough - I don't understand why most of it is used or when to use it until several weeks after the class, when we've moved on to other subjects. Because of this, calculus has been a class I really struggle with. 

Oy, part of me is feeling like I dropped the ball here because, HELLO! I do mention why people would need to know about rates of change and how they're useful. But I guess I do it only a smattering of times at the beginning of a unit and then we go over all the various derivative rules and maybe the students don't realize that it's still all based on the cool stuff. I guess I could keep mentioning this every other class and change some problems to be application problems (now that I think about it, I don't have many. eek!). 


6. What topic(s), if any, do you think I need to change my strategy on AND HOW/WHY? (see your table of contents)

This was revealing. Many people answered about jumbling up some concepts because we went through them "so fast". Good to know.  

7. General suggestions you may have for my teaching of this class in the future.

Not so many abstract hand motions, more drawings and patty paper. The hand motions just confuse me.

Hah! And here I was patting myself on the back for using CLEAR hand motions. Who knew.  


8. If you could give yourself advice for the 2nd semester, what would that advice be?
Shockingly, they give themselves the same advice I'd give them. Imagine that :).

9. What are some things you feel you’ve learned really well (and why do you think you did)?

Interesting answers and mixed. Some felt they learned some things well where those were the very things other kids felt they suffered with. Hmmmm. 

10. Anything else you think I should know.   

If I had one hour left to live, I'd spend in this class because it feels like an eternity ................................... I'm just kidding I love this class and math loves me (most of the time) but also maybe more AP question exposure?  

Best answer yet!



  1. At our university the survey completion rate went way down when they switched from in-class paper surveys to on-line surveys.

  2. Yes, I was guessing that would probably happen if I didn't force them to do it in class. I think it's easy to blow off if you are at home and there are other things to do.

  3. I like the particular questions you asked. I teach community college Statistics and ask similar questions at the end of class, but I may modify mine to be closer to yours. I have struggled also with the partnering of students, because some of them just seem to find it hard to team up, and their skill sets are so variable. Thanks for your blog, always insightful.

  4. Thanks, jdyhnt. I always debate partnering students, since I can commiserate with people needing to process information alone. My students sit at tables of up to 4, and so I guess they have the option to tune out or partner up. Though, they're not always at a table with people they feel comfortable working with. Haven't solved that issue.