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Survey Says… An Online Approach
for Collecting Student Feedback on Middle School Science Projects

Pamela S. Watson

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Online Survey Collector

As the teacher-researcher, the most unexpected and valuable finding for me was the power of using online surveys to get feedback from students. Previously, I rarely asked detailed questions from my students about their feelings on projects since designing and tabulating survey results can be time intensive for a teacher. Instead, I used grades or anecdotal student comments to assess effectiveness of an assignment. While conducting this research project, I discovered that the online surveys were easy to create and administer. The data was tabulated and in a form that could easily be disaggregated for more detailed study. In addition, the students felt empowered that their opinion was sought and their voice was heard. As a teacher, I saw how much extra time was spent outside of class, which enabled me to judge if that was an appropriate amount of homework or if I needed to add additional class time to the project schedule. I could see what stumbling blocks the students encountered in completing the project, and now I have a true gauge of how enjoyable it was from the students' perspectives.

When I conducted the first survey, it had many “holes” or absent data where students failed to answer a question. Even though I thought the survey was user friendly, some students were not as adept at moving from one page to another or answering all questions. In subsequent surveys, these gaps did not exist. With future classes, I would conduct a practice survey so the students would have a better grasp of what the survey looks like and how to move from one page to another. I would also encourage students not to leave blank answers but to carefully fill in each question on the survey. As a teacher, using the surveys gave me greater insight into the value of the projects rather than just looking at student grades to gauge success. Moreover, I had a better understanding of what was troublesome for the students such as saving their work and home computer issues. In upcoming projects, I can improve my efforts to reduce these types of problems. I also got feedback about how they really liked or disliked the projects. I found out that the majority of students like to do group work but want to be graded on only their own input. Using surveys to help teachers refine curriculum is an effective and easy way for educators to produce assignments and lessons that are meaningful and instructive.

Conclusion and Recommendations

This study was conducted in order to look at students' attitudes and gender differences in science projects of increasing difficulty. I found that students will invest time in a more challenging project especially if it includes learning a new computer skill and/or involves partnerships. When I taught a new computer skill to students, I often considered it a more challenging assignment while most students just thought it was fun. Most students preferred to work with a partner or group and wanted to be able to pick partners themselves which correlates to the findings of Prensky (2005). This research showed the differences between males and females in computer skill level and enjoyment of projects that involve computers were very slight.

The results from my action-research may not be generalizable to every other classroom as I have a unique population of students with access to computers on a daily basis. What can be used by all teachers is the practice of using surveys, even simple pencil/paper ones, to gather information from their students to help improve and refine their curriculum. Using an online survey collector makes that information gathering and analyzing process even easier. Websites like SurveyMonkey allow up to ten questions and 100 respondents on one survey for no cost. Other numbers of questions and respondents are available at various price levels. A search of the Internet will show other free or nominal fee survey sites.

I will continue to use online surveys to assess and evaluate projects that my students complete. Using an online survey instrument gave me results that were compiled into a statistical format that was easy to disaggregate and evaluate. Students found it easy to complete the surveys and felt that their opinion about the activity was valued by their teacher. I, the teacher, now have statistical data that clearly shows me what to remove, change, or leave the same in my curriculum which makes the projects I do in my science classroom student-centered and challenging.

References

Czerniak, C.M., Lumpe, A.T., Haney, J.J. and Beck, J. (1999). Teachers; beliefs about using educational technology in the science classroom. International Journal of Educational Technology, 1 (2). Retrieved June, 18, 2007 from http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ijet/v1n2/czerniak/index.html

Hsieh, P., Cho, Y., Liu, M, and Schallert, D. (2008). Examining the interplay between middle school student's achievement goals and self-efficacy in a technology-enhanced learning environment. American Secondary Education, 36 (3), 33-50.

Miller, L.M., Schweingruber, H., and Brandenburg, C.L. (2001). Middle school students' technology practices and preferences: Re-examining gender differences. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia , 10 (2), 125-140.

Prensky, M.(2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9 (5), 1-6. Retrieved February 15, 2009 from

www.marcprensky.com/writing/
Prensky%20%20Digital%20Natives,
%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Prensky, M. (2005). Listen to the natives. Educational Leadership, 63 (4), 8-13.

Young, B.J. (2000). Gender differences in student attitudes toward computers. Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 33 (2), 204-216

Author

Pamela S. Watson is a seventh grade science teacher at Hill Country Middle School in Austin, Texas. She is a May 2009 Master's Degree candidate in Secondary Education from Texas State University — San Marcos. She has taught middle school for 26 years and also taught high school Biology. Pam enjoys baking, reading, and learning new things on the computer that she can share with her students.

pwatson@eanesisd.net

 

Appendix A

Survey One- Periodic Table Project

Demographics:

1. I am a

Boy Girl

2. After two periods in the computer lab, I did most of the work finishing the project

During Advisory

At school –before 1st period

At school- after 8th period

At home

At a friend's house

Other

3. After two periods in the computer lab at school, I estimate that I took this much more time to finish this project

1 hour

2 hours

3 hours

4 hours

5 hours or more

4. I feel comfortable using a computer
SA A CD D SD NA
(Note: SA=Strongly Agree; A=Agree; CD= Can't Decide; D=Disagree; SD= Strongly Disagree; NA=Not Applicable)

5. I have a computer I can use at home

Yes No

6. I have Internet access at home

Yes No

7. I feel comfortable using the following computer programs (check all that apply):

Word

PowerPoint

Movie Maker

Photoshop

Publisher

Spreadsheets (Excel)

Databases

8. I can do the following actions (check all that apply):

Download images from the Internet

Resize images

Send an attachment with an email

 

Periodic Table Project:

Check the circle next to each statement that most closely represents your feeling about the project

1. This was a challenging project

SA A CD D SD NA

2. I enjoyed using the computer to complete this project

SA A CD D SD NA

3. It was easy to find the information I needed on the Internet

SA A CD D SD NA

4. I thoroughly looked over the grading rubric and the instructions before turning in my project

SA A CD D SD NA

5. The instructions for the project were confusing

SA A CD D SD NA

6. I did NOT enjoy doing this project

SA A CD D SD NA

7. I enjoyed working by myself

SA A CD D SD NA

8. This was an easy project

SA A CD D SD NA

9. The instructions for the project were easy to follow

SA A CD D SD NA

10. I would like to do more projects like this one

SA A CD D SD NA

11. I learned something new about technology/computers during this project

SA A CD D SD NA

12. I had a hard time finding accurate information on the Internet

SA A CD D SD NA

13. I taught someone else a technology skill(s)

SA A CD D SD NA

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Meridian: A Middle School Computer Technologies Journal
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Volume 12, Issue 2, 2009
ISSN 1097-9778
URL: http://www.ncsu.edu/meridian/summer2009/
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