Discovering the Potential of Online Surveys for ESL Instruction

While attending the recent TESOL convention in Denver, Colorado, I was excited to see a strong emphasis on blending the latest technology with traditional teaching. Sessions on creative uses of digital media often had standing room only. At the Electronic Village Fair, I was fortunate to find intimate groups of two or three at each computer station. I joined one group led by Marianne Stipe and Lora Yasen of the Tokyo International University of America in Salem, OR. Their demonstration entitled “Teaching Techno-Savvy Students” detailed a project in which each student created and published a digital how-to presentation, from how to buy something on eBay to how to make an avatar.

It was this demonstration that introduced me to online surveys, and since then I have given some thought to their potential. I have taken online surveys myself, but I had never considered using them to aid instruction. Let me offer three possibilities:

  • Listening comprehension. As an initial activity, you can demonstrate how to make an online survey. I agree with Ms. Stipe and Ms. Yasen that SurveyMonkey is ideal in its ease of use. It’s also free. You can check comprehension of your demonstration by having students complete a list of instructions as a cloze exercise.
  • Speaking , writing, and reading skills. Begin a collaborative project by placing students in either pairs or small groups.

1.     Each group must create a survey on a topic. The students may either have complete freedom in choosing their topics, or you can have them draw slips of paper with topics that relate to earlier lessons (a great way to review vocabulary previously studied).

2.     Using SurveyMonkey, each group creates a survey of four or five questions.  You can correct their work on screen, or the students can print out a copy of the survey and submit it. Once corrected, the survey can be sent by e-mail to all class members.

3.     Either during class or as homework, students should complete one another’s surveys.

4.     Meeting back in their groups, students can collect and analyze survey results. (SurveyMonkey makes this very easy with a click of a button called “Analyze”.)

5.     Findings (conclusions and inferences) should be shared orally with the class. This final step provides a great exercise for critical-thinking skills. Discussion based on the survey results should be encouraged.

  • Classroom feedback. To find out how students valued a certain activity or lesson you can use an online survey. Create questions to elicit their opinions and comments.

I offer my thanks to Ms. Stipe, Ms. Yasen, and other TESOL attendees in the Electronic Village for inspiring this post.

Note: Before posting this entry, I ran a survey on favorite days of the week among friends and family. I used SurveyMonkey, and it was an easy and enjoyable experience from beginning to end.

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