After handing out the syllabus and covering the standard information for the course, what do you typically do on the first day of class? If you're like me, you either introduce yourself, or have students introduce themselves, ask if there are any questions, then end class early. After all, it is the first day, and there are a lot of things they have to do including finding where their next class is!
By the end of the semester we picked up on our students’ capabilities, strengths, areas needing improvement, and some interests. "Armed with this new knowledge..." the semester ends. Unless you are fortunate enough to have the student in a future course, the knowledge gained loses usefulness. What a missed opportunity!
Some time ago I came across 26 Questions Every Student Should Be Able To Answer, by Terry Heick, owner/author of TeachThought, a site populated with tips, articles, and informational podcasts for educators. I didn't want wait until the end of the semester to learn some important information from my students, but I also didn't want to subject them to an inquisition; this list of 26 questions bridges the gap nicely.
Following my routine openings, and before I release them, I handout their first assignment, 26 questions. For my online classes I shoot a short 1-2 minute video, make it an assignment for them to view and discuss, then post the 26 questions as a Practice Quiz, with instructions to email me if they have questions. In addition to getting the 26 question information, I can ensure students know how to access assignments online, discussions, quizzes and email in the course room, win-win!
I believe as many do that our primary role as educators is to cause the student to learn, and to do that most effectively, we need to know a bit more about the students beyond, "name, major, and employment plans." This simple questionnaire provides a low tech, low-stress method for mining useful information from our students to enable us to maximize our instruction.
I've shared a link to the 26 questions, so feel free to add them into your course introduction and see what your students share with you!
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