If you are developing software and you would like to get some quality input and feedback from school students then knowing a few techniques that teachers themselves use to get responses from students can be helpful – particularly if you are dealing with class-sized groups of students.

Adult (Teacher) asking school children questions

When we were developing E-JASS, we visited schools and met with some of the pupils who would be using the system. We found their suggestions on how the system should evolve to be thoughtful and insightful.

The majority of teachers will be familiar with all of the techniques below although they may know them under different names. If you plan on using any of them then speak to the class teacher beforehand and let them know – they’ll let you know if there are class specific variations that might make things go smoother.

1. Think Pair Share

Like all of us, children often need a little time to consider their best ideas and develop a confidence in actually putting it forward.

Start by asking the students the question you would like them to answer. Then give them a chance to think about their answer individually and write it down. Give them a minute or two depending on how complicated the question might be. Now, allow them to discuss their answer with a partner – this will give them a chance to come out with more ideas they did not think of on their own as well as get some reassurance from their partner about their ideas. They can write the new ideas on their list, or they can construct a combined list.

Now you ask for some initial thoughts from the class, and because they will not be thinking on their feet – they’ll have some considered responses to give you. You can also collect the papers and look through them later.

2. Two Stars and a Wish

Another technique for getting feedback from students – particularly when they’ve been asked to evaluate something. As the name suggests, students are requested to think of two positive comments about the thing they are evaluating (stars), and one comment about a future improvement they would like to see (wish).

When we did this, we turned it around a little. We asked the students to provide one star and two wishes.

Again, get the children to write down their thoughts.

3. Carousels

Children like being active when they learn and this technique can get your audience up on their feet to stimulate their thinking.

Depending on the class size, you will ideally want to get feedback on three or four areas. Let’s say you need to get feedback on a mobile app, the interface, a process for uploading files and something else.

Write each of these on a large piece of paper (A3 is ideal) and distribute them around the classroom. Split the class into groups of four or five and have each group start at one of the bits of paper. Give them a set amount of time to discuss and write down all of the things they can think of related to that topic. Once the time is up, the groups then move to the next piece of a paper in a rotation. This time, the previous group will already have written down many of the key items of feedback so that this group will discuss their own. If their idea is already written on the piece of paper, they should tick (check) that option to indicate that another group agreed. If their idea is not already there, they should write it down.

The techniques above can be used in conjunction with other familiar ways of getting feedback such as questionnaires and observing users using the system. You may have already come across the techniques above; they can be used in adult collaborative brainstorming activities too.

Published on: 2 February 2016

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