Student survey analysis

At KIST, we conduct an annual student survey to assess classroom climate. Students complete the survey electronically and anonymously by evaluating statements about me and the class as ‘usually’, ‘sometimes’, or ‘no’. The resulting data is later shared with teachers. It’s an informative method of receiving feedback which can be used to refine approaches teaching.


Overall, my survey results were very positive. To statements which I would consider critical, like ‘My teacher cares about me.’ and ‘My teacher shows respect to all students.’


One question which I find very useful for evaluating my differentiation strategies is ‘I am able to do the work given to me.’

An 81% ‘usually’ and 0% ‘no’ outcome shows that my ongoing formative assessment cycle assures that every student is both challenged and capable of success.

One surprise was an unexpectedly positive response to ‘My teacher allows me to demonstrate my understanding in various ways.’


Through the first half of the school year, providing multiple pathways to understanding and accepting diverse assessment artifacts have been areas I feel I have neglected. However, my students seem to think otherwise, so perhaps what I have been doing has been satisfying for them.


The first disturbing result in the student survey was to the statement ‘Students are respectful to each other in my class.’

The majority of students responded ‘sometimes’, indicating that I could be doing more to foster respect in my class. Fortunately, they don’t seem to think that I lack respect.

My biggest disappointment is the only 62% ‘usually’ response for ‘My teacher teaches about and demonstrates the Learner Profile attributes.’

 Planning and executing IB Primary Years Program units of inquiry has been my greatest frustration this year as I adapt to a new teaching environment. In the past, I have been very careful to explicitly teach the elements of the PYP embedded within units of inquiry. Thus far in this school year, such careful planning and execution simply hasn’t happened.

Fortunately, my class is in the formative stages of a new unit so it’s a perfect time to bring IB Learner Profile attributes back to the front. To get started, I’ll access another data source, our Learner Profile reflections, by looking at the analytics.

This data visualization reveals that at this time, according to their self assessments, Caring is my students’ least developed Learner Profile attribute. This evidence also supports their feeling that they are not respectful to each other in class.

By making Caring a focal point in our next unit of inquiry, these issues may be addressed.


The statement ‘I feel free to ask and answer questions.’ is the most perplexing to me.

Contrasting that with a more favorable response to ‘My teacher gives me help when I need it.’ suggest some confusion.

In general, school has traditionally been a place where teachers have answers to students’ questions. While that is a culture that I reject, it doesn’t mean my students have not grow up with that mindset.

As in Ted Meyer’s TED talk, Math class needs a makeover, I aim to promote ingenuity and inquiry by being ‘less helpful’. Students constantly ask me questions that could researched in a book, on the Internet, or by asking their peers. For example, I almost never answer spelling questions for students.

I also avoid the traditional hand raising routine that most classrooms follow, preferring to call for responses randomly or in an open forum setting.

So it’s little surprise that many only ‘sometimes’ feel free to ask questions since they are likely still processing the cognitive dissonance of a new culture of ‘less helpful’ classroom participation.


This is an interesting exercise, although doing it any more than once per year would be too much. I can also see how it might be difficult to compare results year to year, as the perspectives of different classes can vary so widely.

I am happy to take away some actionable data and look forward to seeing what results it might lead to. 

Integrating public speaking, peer assessment, and data handling

As a formative assessment task within a unit focused on advertising, my class recently completed a learning engagement which integrated persuasive writing, public speaking, peer assessment, and data gathering, organization, and analysis.

Public speaking

The first step was for students to apply what they had learned around the central idea, ‘People create and manipulate messages to target and persuade specific audiences.’, by presenting their own persuasive speeches.

One of the most powerful tools we explored were TED talks about children.

We followed a typical writing process which featured prominently rehearsal and peer feedback.

Peer assessment

By emphasizing peer evaluation, there were many opportunities for me to model sensitive and effective critique as well as coach individual students and groups to develop as assessors.

When the day of the presentations drew near, students contributed their ideas about features of a persuasive speech which I synthesized into our Persuasive speech peer assessment rubric

Every student in the class used the rubric to evaluate every other student’s speech.

Data handling

This provided an authentic data handling exercise as students used a Persuasive speech peer assessment data organizer to gain deeper insights into their peer feedback.

I believe that the authenticity and social elements designed into the activity led to every student being extremely motivated to learn the concept and application of average.


A further step that I considered including but decided against would be to teach the students how to use Excel or other spreadsheet software to organize and analyze their data. However, it didn’t seem appropriate at the time and I would prefer that the students experience this process in the old fashioned analog manner before introducing digital tools. 

Making the arts make a difference

In lieu of a faculty meeting today, my Principal has blessed us with a learning opportunity to read and reflect on The Arts Make A Difference by Nick Rabkin and Robin Redmond.

Being significantly behind on my professional blogging, this is also an ideal opportunity to reestablish that invaluable habit.

One observation that I have made about my students is that, like the students in Nick Jaffe’s music engineering classes, ‘“They have a shocking ability to work effectively and listen well amid the cacophony in this open room,”’. Perhaps one consideration we should have is that deep learning is messy and noisy. If we insist on neat, orderly, quiet classrooms, we will have neat, orderly, quiet learning.

I want learning to be loud.

The most important theme of this article is that arts integration shouldn’t necessarily mean the integration of Arts content into or connected to Language and Mathematics. They should be equally balanced, with emphasis being placed on the authentic arts processes and products, supported by language and math skills.

What is needed is for teachers to collaborate to understand the ‘parallel processes in an art form or arts-related activity and a more traditionally academic activity’.

In a truly Constructivist environment, the content is created by the learners with the teachers serving as facilitators, organizers, documentarians, and coaches. Learning expressed through art values the learners’ experiences, values, and emotions. But for curriculum to be arts driven, we must find ways to use content and skills instruction to support learning in a coherent manner. This provokes me to revisit my introduction to the IB Primary Years Program and the document, Toward a Coherent Curriculum by James Beane.

The transdisciplinary nature of the PYP and the ‘socially constructed and largely artificial’ boundaries of school are incompatible.

If we instead think of the learner at the center (rather than content), it is intuitive to imagine that each teacher can have a role, based on their expertise, to uniquely support and inform learning.

Coherence will come from those teachers acting as a collaborative team rather than a group of cooperating individuals isolated within their own disciplines. They should understand how each others’ approaches complement each other from the learners’ perspective and how they can improve their coordination through communication.

To quickly begin to address this need in our school, I recommend that each integrated unit of inquiry be planned on one document and that specialist teachers be responsible for ‘leading’ the planning to identify and define the language and mathematics content and skills that would best support the students’ learning processes and products.

Designing a new classroom

Upon arriving for the first day of a new job, I sat by myself, for the first time in my new classroom, Grade 4B, in my new school, K International School Tokyo.

In anticipation of that moment, I applied attention to classroom environment as a crucial element of Learning Experience Design. Several interesting articles have been published recently on this topic, including Classroom design can boost primary pupils’ progress by 16% and The Perfect Classroom, According to Science.

While following CISC 2015 – the most inspiring symposium I didn’t attend, I was inspired by a classroom layout concept shared by Brian Curwick.

It closely resembled my own thinking about the importance of collaborative teams in learning. I augmented this idea with the need for a balance between private, collaborative, and presentation spaces.

Empowering pedagogy

Last April, I was pleasantly surprised by this tweet announcing a twitter chat on the topic of environment in empowering pedagogy:

// document shared in the tweet, ‘The Environment’ (Chapter 8 of Empowering Pedagogy For Early Childhood Education), and Making Your Environment ‘The Third Teacher’, another article shared within it, have both been enlightening as during my deliberations.

The graphic below from ‘The Environment’ is an ideal reference in this process.

Also included was a quote which resonated strongly with me:

‘The path of learning and development is more like a butterfly than that of a bullet.’ Jim Greenman

Learning shouldn’t have a trajectory, but rather a heading.

Although these Reggio Emilia inspired resources focus on early childhood learning and I will be teaching Grade 4, I think the concepts and strategies are absolutely applicable, particularly in promoting engagement.

What are the ‘hidden treasures’ for nine year olds? They still literally need things to climb, sand to dig, and water to pour. But they should also play with increasingly sophisticated concepts. And they should do it together, so perhaps many of their treasures are the ideas and feedback from each other, as Constructivist pedagogy suggests.

Design perspective

// rethinking schools and classrooms provide inspiration. The DesignShare website contains many interesting illustrations to consider. Of particular interest to me were their pages about the Learning Studio and Home Base and Individual Storage.

Jim Greenman’s publication for Beyond the Journal, Places for Childhood in the 21st Century, inspires an ethical and moral dimension to create learning spaces which ‘encourage competence, provide comfort, and accept individuality.’

In the article, How UDL can get you to personalized learning, David Gordon describes considerations for goals, methods, materials, and assessment can promote the Universal Design for Learning recommendations of:

– Multiple means of engagement (affective)
– Multiple representations of content (recognition)
– Multiple means of action and expression (strategic)

‘When applying the UDL framework, goals should be decoupled from the means to achieve them so that teachers can effectively plan to provide multiple pathways to success.’

Physical reality

Even with all of this to consider, the actual cuboid room and traditional furniture and materials within dictate the design of the learning space.
Fortunately, the room has significant natural light. Unfortunately, it illuminated years of dust and grime that demanded my attention before any theory could be considered.

While dusting and washing, I excavated all of the ‘stuff’, such as binders, plastic drawer units, rolls of butcher paper, etc, to directly in front of the projector screen. This helped to guarantee that once it was all sorted and relocated, a large open space would remain which would serve as a whole group presentation and interaction space.

My immediate goal was to design a space with three zones:

Small group collaborative
Whole class presentation/interactive

Our private space is the smallest, consisting of a classroom library under the bright windows and soon, colorful foam mats for floor seating.

The small group spaces are my priority. I arranged individual student desks into groups of four (one group of five) around the perimeter of the learning space, each with its own bookshelf to store resources including encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesaurus, student work in progress trays, and some their other materials.


Through proximity, I believe that students may enjoy a greater sense of connection to and responsibility for their learning assets. They will also have a voice in deciding exactly how their spaces are used, empowering them to act as designers themselves.

While promoting cooperation, this arrangement also prevents distraction, as the space between the groups is maximized.

The center of the room contains an open space for whole class interaction. When the desk groups are pushed closer to the walls, there is enough room for the entire class to form a Community Circle with their chairs, or to create a sort of amphitheater environment for viewing presentations and media.

Digital environment

Our fourth teacher is online. Using Moodle and other online tools, I expect to enhance our cooperative and collaborative learning.
However, that is a topic for another post.


Have I designed a space to achieve my goal to include private, collaborative, and presentation spaces?
We have a private reading area under the windows, albeit tiny and exposed. Yet there is warm natural light and colorful foam mats on order to further brighten it. There may be a solution to creating more of a ‘nook’ feeling that I will try to revisit as I see how the students utilize the space as it is.
The priority of this layout is to facilitate collaboration. Placing bookshelves adjacent to groups of desks occupies valuable floor space, but it can also mean increased access to resources. Observation of the students will determine the success of this theory.

With some easy rearrangement, the open space in the center can become large enough to serve as a work area for larger projects, whole group meeting area, and audience seating for presentations.

I’m quite happy with how the room turned out, although I can see how custom made furniture would make it look stylish. Everyone wants a bit bigger room, but I haven’t felt cramped at any time. Often while pursuing inquiries, students ask to move into the corridor anyway, which makes me consider that perhaps it’s a mistake to think of the classroom walls as boundaries at all!