Here's the problem. Evaluating a course at the end, and/or at various points during the course, is essential to good teaching/learning practice. But, the tools I have used have sometimes felt dull and plodding, like busy work, especially when I try to get people to make the evaluation more specific and concrete.
The problem is worse when the participants are friendly and compliant. Then it really feels pro-forma.
(By the way, when participants are really in control of the process and have a real stake in it and care passionately about which direction it goes, even dull evaluation techniques can produce great energy. But English classes start and often remain to a large extent in the teacher's control, so a participatory evaluation sits on a gap between the teacher and the participants, and between the participants themselves.)
What's your alibi?
An evaluation activity. A role play where one group of participants are the suspects and another group are the cops. The cops use the good cop/bad cop tactic.
NOTE: this lacks times — how long should each bit be?
- Divide the class into three groups (by whatever means you prefer, good to have the groups be cross-level, gender etc.)
- Tell Group A: “You have been arrested. The police are holding you and will soon interrogate you. The charge is “wasting time” – they say you are taking an English class that is not meeting your needs. You will each [or two representatives of your group] be questioned separately. But the whole group has to prepare the suspects for the questioning.”
- Are you innocent or guilty? Can you prove it? (Teacher help people flesh this out – what is this class about? What are the goals of this class? What have we been doing in class? How is the content/process/schedule/teacher etc. working? Are you learning anything? How do you know?)
- Then tell the other two groups, you are cops. One group is the good cops, the other is the bad cops. When you question the suspects there will be one good cop and one bad cop.
- Explain good cop/bad cop. The role of the bad cop is to be aggressive and suspicious – the goal is to get the suspect to talk, but also to challenge his/her story to test it. Rule – no physical violence! (joke, but as always be sensitive here — you never know if someone has actually been subjected to interrogation, especially when dealing with immigrant workers, or movement activists).
- The role of the good cop is to be friendly to the suspect, pretending to defend him or her from the bad cop, but the goal is the same: to get them to talk, and test the story.
- The good cops and bad cops will prepare separately, but meet briefly before the interrogation begins to compare notes and decide how to start.
- Teacher help the groups prepare by prompting them to ask questions that will draw out details. What questions will you ask? How can you get the suspect to confess? How can you challenge her/his story? What facts do you need to get? — What are they really doing in this so-called class? Isn’t it really just about going out for drinks afterwards? Prove that you are learning – name something you have learned.
- The questioning happens in classic style, with the suspect seated in a chair and the two cops at a table with papers in front of them, but free to move around.
- Use your judgment about when to stop. If it drags, stop action and ask for help from the groups — what should the suspect do? Do you want to sit in for her? (Is that okay with the suspect?)
- Teacher take notes — if this works, it should produce not just entertainment but some insights into the course.
- Repeat the questioning with another suspect or two.
- Summarize the notes and share them, before asking people to debrief in pairs. Then, after five minutes or so, open up a general discussion. Look for things that can change, ways to improve the course, but give people a lot of space to take this discussion where they want to.
- Write up results and share with participants.