Another of the quotations I used in my IH Barcelona ELT Conference talk last week…
The "quotations" I collect have come from a huge variety of sources, and are by no means all from famous people.
This particular one came from a workshop I did many years ago in which we were talking about working with teenagers. One of the tasks I asked those attending to do was to brainstorm a list of things teens like, making the items as specific as possible (so, for example not just "music", but names of particular bands).
After a few minutes, I asked for ideas, and a young teacher read off the most amazing list of bands, video game titles, brands of clothing, shop names, places to hang out, and so on.
"How do you know all that?" an older member of staff asked, astonished.
"I just asked them," the first teacher said, almost equally astonished that a teacher wouldn't be interested in what their learners had to say.
I'm not sure quite why the incident stuck in my mind as vividly as it did, but it was perhaps one of the things that fixed one of my beliefs about teaching young learners in my head: if you are going to work with kids, it's vital that you take a genuine interest in them as people. If you don't have that, for your sake and theirs, teach adults instead!
About the same time, in the same school, I started an ambitious project to survey all our learners on the courses they finished, tallying the results with a pencil and typing up the many excellent suggestions they made for improving the courses on an old Amstrad word processor, for subsequent consideration and implementation.
Since, technology has changed the world but in all the courses I do now, I've carried on asking students what they think at the end of them, something which I can highly, highly recommend.
Use Google Docs forms to find out what your students think of your courses
Creating a new form… That's a Google docs form (arrow), which can be filled in and sent, not just a "Google Doc" (the equivalent of Word)
Google Docs forms [find out more] have replaced my pencil and tally sheet and they're a fabulous tool for the job, being easy to set up and share, and automatically collating the information collected and presenting it neatly in graphs and pie charts.
Adding an item (a new question) to the form: there is a variety of different question types in the dropdown menu
Results of the forms submitted, automatically tallied and neatly presented
Of all the questions I've ever asked "What one thing would you suggest we do in order to improve this course?" has been the one that has been most productive. I've asked literally 1000s of learners the question on literally 100s of occasions and the question has always lead at least one significant improvement to the courses I teach.
You can also have your students write their own surveys and get them to answer each others, which works particularly well if you are working with another school, perhaps in another country.
A written report or an oral presentation of the results allows for further exploitation.