I wrote this post as a service to teachers headed back to school. My observations of the events of this past weekend (#Charlottesville) tell me we need as many ways as possible to build relationships and unity in our country. Our classrooms are a great place to start.
The Desire to Build Relationships
I did it. My teachers did it. I even tell the teachers I teach to do it. The Back-To-School survey. So many good intentions of using the information given on carefully crafted blanks and cleverly worded questions. More often than not the Back-To-School survey was collected and placed in a pile, never fully realizing its potential. My gut told me I needed to know my students to teach them well, but my survey never seemed to jumpstart that process.
There has to be a better way.
Student-Teacher Relationships and Student Outcomes
A few years ago I came across an episode of the Hidden Brain Podcast and heard about how a simple survey was designed to build relationships between teachers and students and was associated with improved student outcomes. Hunter Gehlbach and his team created the survey for both the teacher and students to take, with the goal being for both to uncover the interests and characteristics they shared.
Dr. Gehlbach found that even superficial relationship connections between the teacher and the student can be associated with better performance by the students. What is even more curious is that this result occurs even though the student doesn’t perceive any difference in the relationship. This finding could mean that the more important relationship to build is from the teacher to the student rather than the other way around. This might say something larger about the opportunity gap (rather than an achievement gap). I believe this survey is a quick way for my students and I to see how we are a like and in the case of Dr. Gehlbach’s research this showed better performance in the classroom for students.
How do you use the Survey?
1.Navigate to Panorama’s website
2.Sign up for an account
3.Take the survey
4.Share your unique survey link with your students
5.Provide time for your students to take the survey
6.Reflect on the results
Upon completing the survey, each student will be given a short list of responses that contain the overlap between your responses and their responses. Students will then be asked to reflect on the list and what it means for their future interactions with you. From the teacher’s perspective, after a student completes the survey, the teacher is prompted to look at the results of each student and to reflect on the overlap between the two and to consider how this knowledge might be helpful in the classroom.
Right now, the survey and the associated software is available for free from Panorama Education. The wording on the website makes it seem like this will not be the case next year. My suggestion is to give the survey a try and see how it works for you.
A pdf version of the survey is also available for download. It can be found at the bottom of this webpage