One method, suitable for students for whom writing is not difficult, is simply to ask them to write a comparison of two activities which you choose. It may be worth structuring this at the beginning by suggesting notes are made under headings such as the ones below:
Good things Bad things
An alternative method would be to carry out a similar exercise verbally. Fairly open questions might be used, such as ‘What things do you like doing best in class?’ and ‘What things don’t you like doing?’. These, if followed up sensitively by further enquiries to obtain reasons (and the results recorded), should soon show up the students’ criteria and patterns in their opinions about your provision. The recording is important, for, when there is no record to reflect on, it is very easy to fail to fully appreciate the messages one may be being offered.
This activity will help your future planning and provision and could be analysed to identify any patterns in your students’ perspectives. If some students seem to be poorly motivated, to lack interest or to dispute the value of an activity, then you will need to consider possible alternative means to achieve the same learning outcomes, or even point students towards further support from professional sources. For example, group work may appeal to many students, but those who are particularly shy may find having to work in a more interactive way is stressful. This is a sensitive issue, as students do need to engage in a variety of activities including socializing with peers as well as with you, the teacher. However, there may be a number of factors involved in this situation which you may be unaware of, or indeed, have little power to intervene; being able to determine what you can do and what the student – and possibly other professionals or colleagues – can do is an important part of your professional decision-making.