Action Research - Stop, Start, Continue

Nik Peachey, Teacher, Trainer, Materials writer, British Council

This is an idea I got from a workshop that I went to many years ago. I have used it many times since and found it to be a really useful way of getting feedback from my students on my lessons and my teaching.

I get students to brainstorm all the kind of things I as a teacher do and things which we do in class. Some examples might be;

  • speaking in pairs
  • playing games
  • explaining grammar
  • setting homework

Once I have a list of the main areas, I give out a sheet of paper to each student and get them to draw three columns on the page. I then get them to write the words stop, start,and continue, one word at the top of each column.

I then ask them to think about the things we do in class and write a comment about them in one of the columns. It helps to give an example to get them started: 'We have too much homework please give us less' could go in the 'stop' column. 'I like playing revision games.' could go in the 'continue' column as that would be something we already do which they like. 'Let's watch some videos.' could go in the 'start' column as that's something we don't really do which they might like to do.

It may well help to leave your students alone to discuss this together as this often makes them less inhibited. Also make sure that you tell them NOT to put their names on the paper. You are much more likely to get honest responses from your students if they are anonymous.

Let the students leave the papers in a pile and then you can collect them up at the end of the lesson.

Once you've read them, it is important of course to act on what you're read. It might be that some of the things the students want aren't possible in which case this is a good chance to explain why, it is also often true that things they don't want to do, like homework, are actually a necessary part of learning and this is a good time to reinforce this to them. Of course there are also things that even you as the teacher have to get them to do, even though you may not like it, and again this is a good chance to explain this. Most importantly though it may be good to acknowledge which of their comments you have found useful and what you will try to do as a result.

I have often done this exercise particularly with classes I was having a problem with and it has always been really useful in helping me to improve class rapport and ultimately the way I teach.