When I used to tutor in the UTS Business School I developed a little survey that helped me understand my students better – my ‘Adam’s Getting to Know You Survey.’ I developed the survey in response to two points of frustration I had experienced in earlier semesters: First, I found it difficult to strike up conversations with all the students in the first class; there were just too many. Second, it often took me until the end of the session to find out relevant information about my students that I could have used in various in-class discussions (e.g., where they work, relevant hobby).
I decided to address these issues by creating a little two-page survey to give to students in my first class. It was a simple survey that covered things I wanted to know about my students, such as their degree/major being studied, if they were working and where, their hobbies/interests, and their expectations of me as their tutor.
Giving it out and getting in back
I gave my survey to each student when they walked in the room and asked them to complete it and to then hand it straight back to me. As students started to hand them back, I was amazed how easy it was to engage in a quick conversation with them; all I had to do was scan the survey and pick something to ask them (e.g., “how long have you worked at KMart for?”). You could see them relax and open up immediately. You could also see that other students in the room were listening to the exchanges and gaining insights into their fellow class mates.
Gaining insights and connecting
After my first class I would look through the completed surveys. Their responses really helped me gain insights into who my students were. Yes, they were first year students. But they were much more than that. Some were playing sports at elite levels, others played supervisory roles at work, some had already completed a degree or had transferred from another institution. This information helped me to connect with my students, and also to build connections between them.
My survey also helped me to remember the names of my students. I used to find it difficult to remember names. But when I had other reference points, their names became much easier to remember. All this information enabled me to draw on my students when needed and to build a connected and dynamic class environment where students felt comfortable participating.
Success for me, and I hope for you
SFS feedback always contained comments related to my efforts to get to know my students and the supportive learning environment that my students and I created. I believe that my survey played a big role in this. I have given the survey to other academics over the years and have heard it was useful for them too. I encourage you to give the survey a go this teaching session. The survey, available for download below, is in word, so you can change whatever you like. It’s important that your survey contains the questions that you would like to know about your students.
Click here to view/download my survey.