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Introducing: The TEFL Lab’s Course Checkpoint Tool

adult learners Jan 17, 2022

Whether your course feels like a quick sprint or a year-long marathon, it’s important to check in with your learners every so often to see what their perception is of the course so far and if there are any new needs or interests that have arisen in their English learning journey. Sometimes it may feel a little uncomfortable just asking your learners for feedback out of the blue, and if your questions aren’t specific enough (“Do you like my English classes?”), you might not get any actionable feedback on how to make sure they are engaged and motivated to continue their course with you.

Enter the Course Checkpoint tool!

This presentation is very simple– it consists of 5 questions that you can ask your learners periodically to generate a dialogue that makes it easy to express what they are enjoying about class and where they might like to see changes.  That last bit about making it easier to express what changes they might like to see is very important.  Culture plays a big role in how people communicate and what they consider to be polite or impolite, and it can be difficult for teachers to predict or understand that dynamic at times.  However, the questions in the Course Checkpoint allow you to ask about specific aspects of the course in a way that makes it easy for your students to pinpoint areas for improvement or discuss a different approach, and when a learner gives you feedback on those points, it will feel like any potential critique they make is related to the course and not to you as a teacher or their feelings toward you.

Opening up that type of conversation with your learners is a great way to help them feel that the course you’re teaching is meeting their needs, and helps keep them motivated because they have a say in what happens in their classes.  It’s a great way to ensure learners keep attending class, and to book their next course or set of classes with you once the current set of hours is completed.

The best way to implement this type of check-in with your learners is to first decide how frequently you’d like to do it– it could be once per month, every quarter of the course you complete, after each test or at the end of each module you complete, etc.  Decide what feels reasonable and then, when it’s time to use the Course Checkpoint tool, reserve around 15 minutes at the end of the lesson to ask these questions.

Sharing your screen, you can open the Course Checkpoint presentation and tell your learners that you’d like to get their opinions and ideas about the course so far.  Let them know that you are interested in hearing their honest answers to the 5 questions on the page.  Make sure you’ve got a notebook and pen handy, or use our printable graphic organizer, and hover over the first number.  You can ask a learner to read it aloud and then field their answers, taking notes the entire time.  Complete this step for each of the questions, asking for clarification or more information as needed.  You’ll really want to take notes on what the learners say throughout the activity, so pay close attention to what they’re saying– you can do an analysis afterward.

After you’ve gotten them to answer the 5 questions on the page, thank your learners for sharing their feedback with you! Even if they’ve asked for changes or you don’t feel too confident after hearing some of their feedback, it’s a positive.  Why? Because that feedback is going to help you shape the course into a positive experience for everyone!

Once you’ve concluded the class with your learners and have some time to review what you wrote, have a look at your notes.  Read through the answers to the questions you asked.  What stands out to you? Are there any patterns? Is anything surprising to you?  It might not be possible to do everything they’ve mentioned in their comments, but it’s certainly important to try to mold the course based on them.

Identify the low-hanging fruit first.  Did someone say that they really love when you do roleplay activities in class? That’s great! You can easily implement more of these types of activities in your lessons.  Did someone request a different approach to error correction, more vocabulary to study, or to move through the content more slowly and spend more time repeating certain activities? All of those are quite easy to take into consideration in your future lessons.  Once you’ve taken time to make those changes, you can think about how to address any requests that seemed a little more out-of-the-box.

It is essential that if you do the Course Checkpoint with your learners that you take their feedback into consideration and show that you are implementing their suggestions in class.  The only thing worse than feeling like your course is static and that you can’t affect it in any way is being asked how you’d like it to work, and then not seeing any changes after sharing your feedback!

With regular Course Checkpoint sessions over the length of a course, you can get out ahead of learners’ frustrations, thrill them with exciting classes relevant to new or important interests and challenges, provide them with tips or self-study opportunities, and help them set their own objectives throughout the course.  It’s a great way to further build rapport with your learners, keep them happy and engaged, and also to challenge yourself to approach your teaching with a focus on learners’ needs, which is what we all should be aiming for when we step into the classroom each day.