Thailand University Teacher Extraordinaire

The trials and tribulations of a young English teacher

A Critical Incident Questionnaire Experiment

on Thu,Feb,2011

A few months ago, inspired by Brookfield’s The Skillful Teacher, I decided that it was time for an experiment. I made my own Critical Incident Questionnaire and gave it to my 2nd year university business students. All students were told that it would be anonymous and that they shouldn’t write their name on their paper. They were told to write as much or as little as they wanted for each question. Here are the questions I went with…

In class this week…

At what moment did you feel most engaged?
At what moment did you feel most confused?
What action did anyone (teacher or student) do that you found most helpful?
What surprised you the most?

The results were interesting. Some students struggled to write a single sentence for each, while others almost filled an entire sheet of A4 paper. Many students said they were surprised to even be asked these questions. Here is what I learned from the experience

– I need to be clearer with instructions, especially when the activity isn’t so straightforward. It may be a high level class, but that doesn’t mean that I should give little thought to instructions.

– Many students loved the feedback session for one of the vocabulary exercises we did in class. It should only have taken a couple of minutes to go through the answers, but I spontaneously decided to insist on eliciting every answer, even though the words themselves were quite complex. It ended up becoming a bit of a game, where I gave only the first one or two letters for every word. A couple of students wrote that they normally feel too shy to try to give answers in front of the class, but this exercise gave them enough confidence to contribute. Ironically I was mentally kicking myself after class for wasting so much time on it.

– Students are generally happy with whole class feedback sessions we do after exercises and activities. Often there isn’t much of a contribution from many students, so I was starting to doubt how much value they actually had for this class. This is something I should feel more confident about.

– A couple of students said that they like me checking their work individually when they finish before the rest of the class. I sometimes debate with myself about giving them immediate feedback or waiting for the whole class to finish before giving answers. This is something I will keep doing.

– I shouldn’t say “I guess” or “I think” when talking about something. At least a couple of students are taking that literally!

– Some students really like it when an individual student asks me a question during an activity or exercise and I answer it in front of the whole class. This is something I should do more.


I intend to repeat the experiment in a few weeks. It will be interesting to see if anything has changed and to find new areas of my craft that need work.


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