Faculty Presentation on Assessment

This probably won’t be fascinating to students, but might be of interest to other educators: We had faculty workshops today at Franklin Pierce and as one of the presenters, I gave a 15-minute talk about using SurveyMonkey to measure student response to an assignment students completed in my College Writing I and II course.

This is the Powerpoint I used http://www.slideshare.net/mendhamt/tracys-quick-and-easy-assessment-tool-surveymonkey-presentation.

I’ll paste the text of the handout below.
Tracy Mendham

A quick and simple tool for gathering student feedback on course work

What it is: SurveyMonkey is a free online survey tool. You can create questionnaires of up to 10 questions and collect up to 100 responses to each one. The surveys are created online, and you can provide the link for your survey by email or by posting it on a website or WebCT course.

Why I used it: I used SurveyMonkey to get student feedback on a new online writing assignment I was using in my College Writing I and II courses. (For this assignment, students were asked to call in voice messages to a service called Gabcast; I used this as an ice-breaker and prewriting assignment for the first essay, and later students completed two reading-response journal assignments with Gabcast voice messages.) I was quite enthusiastic about the new assignment; I like playing with new technologies, and it seemed like it would achieve some specific course goals. I try to remind myself on a regular basis, however, that what seems fun and useful to me isn’t automatically fun and useful for students. Since this was a novel assignment, and because I knew that I would be writing about it for a Calderwood Writing fellowship, I wanted to get feedback from students on their experience of the assignment, and do it in a way that would allow students to speak freely and anonymously. I also wanted a simple way of recording and gathering student responses to the survey.

How I did it and how you can do it, too: When I first gave students the instructions for the assignments, I told them that they were something new I was trying out and that I would be asking them for feedback down later on. This way, I could hope that the students would be sort of self-aware and articulating their experience for themselves, which would help them recall their experience later. Also, this was an assignment that for which I anticipated some bumps in the road—my instructions might not be perfect the first time around, there could be unexpected snafus with the voice messaging service, and students might feel self-conscious completing these recordings. I wanted to be upfront with students about the fact that they were pioneers and guinea pigs—sometimes this helps them deal more calmly with problems.

At the end of the semester (two 8-week terms later, in fact, since this was at a Graduate and Professional Studies campus) I went to the SurveyMonkey website and set up a free account, then created the survey. Not counting the time I spent thinking about the questions and how to word them, this probably took under 30 minutes.
I announced in class during our next-to-last session that I was conducting a survey and that I would be emailing the link to them and posting a link on the blog. I told them that those who completed it would be helping me to teach more effectively, and that they would be entered in a drawing for a small prize. Completing the survey online was presented as the main method of responding, but I also told students that I would provide paper copies of the survey in case it was not convenient for them to complete it online.
I provided the link to students as announced, and also printed paper copies of the survey at the last class. (Students who had taken the first 8-week course and weren’t enrolled in the second only got the email invite.)
Right after the break at the last class, I did the drawing and provided several small prizes—such as my favorite brand of pen (and the one most of their essay feedback had been written in).

I printed out the student responses so I could read through them. With a free account, SurveyMonkey doesn’t allow you to download the answers to a spreadsheet, and I almost shelled out the extra 19.95 for this…but didn’t.

I did find the student feedback on the experience of the assignment useful—it confirmed in a general way my impressions of the students reaction, but gave me an appreciably different measure of the degree of student reactions—they were more lukewarm about completing the voice-message assignment that I had realized, neither liking nor disliking it as much as I had expected. All but three of the students in the class of eighteen completed the survey.

This is a tool I’ll use again. Students don’t seem to mind completing short online surveys, and not only does it yield useful information, but I like the somewhat democratic message it sends—that I really want to know what they think about something, and that they can complain or praise something anonymously.

One shortcoming of the free level of SurveyMonkey service, besides the inability to download responses as a data set, is that there isn’t a way to automatically display the survey results on the class blog or the SurveyMonkey page for my survey—although I could take a screenshot like the one at right. If I had the means to do this, I think it would be useful and provide reinforcement to survey respondents that their vote was heard.

SurveyMonkey’s website is at http://www.surveymonkey.com.

Gabcast is a podcasting and audioblogging platform—I set up an account so that student phone messages to the tollfree Gabcast number would be posted as mp3’s on our Gabcast channel, and later our blog. The Gabcast website is http://www.gabcast.com.

Leave a comment

1 Comment

  1. Molly Haas

     /  September 4, 2008

    I’m going to try this. I set up an account last year and never did anything with it — you’ve encouraged me to jump in.



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