As a new teacher, I often got advice that complicated things that were otherwise really simple. “Interest Inventories” are the perfect example. This is a fancy name for asking your students what they’re interested in.
Should be simple, right? Like, I could have just asked my students, “What do you like to do when you’re at home?”
But look online for interest inventories and you’ll find multi-page surveys with dozens of questions. These questionnaires intimidate kids and leave teachers with even more work to do.
Ask Just One Question
In my first couple of years, I tried to use some Famous Professor’s fancy interest survey, but, folks, I never even read through all of my students’ responses because the surveys were so long! It ended up being busywork that stressed me (and my students) out. That pile of filled-out surveys just sat there, adding to my guilt! I didn’t even know how to use the responses.
So, eventually, I learned to just ask one question! For example:
If you could learn more about anything (and I mean anything) this year at school, what would it be?
Or phrase it as a teaching opportunity:
If you were to teach the class something this year (don’t worry you won’t have to), what topic would you want to teach them about? It could be any topic. Anything!
That’s it. One darn question. Not intimidating. Open-ended, so kids can take it to unexpected places. Easy for me to read through. Done and done.
Some folks send parents surveys as well. Again, I’ll keep it as bare-bones as possible so I’m not adding more work to parents’ plates. One or two questions. Maybe I’d ask:
“What about your child have you been most surprised by in the last year?”
Or a set of two questions:
- What are you most proud of about your child?
- Are you worried about anything in particular this year? You can say “nothing”!
My goal is just to get a glimpse into the family dynamics and learn a bit more about my students than last year’s test scores.
Related: Conference Surveys
I see this same problem with education conferences. They send me such long and complicated surveys that I always quit halfway through. Two questions would do the job:
- What was the best part about the conference?
- What was the worst part about the conference?
Let’s not make things more complicated than they already are!