Yale Center for Teaching and Learning

Developing a Pre-Course Survey

Distributing a pre-course survey will help instructors get to know their students and get a sense of the class before the first day. Open-ended questions often elicit valuable information about student identity as it relates to the course, and allow students to choose if, and how much, to share. One method to protect anonymity is to distribute index cards on which students may write their answers; instructors may also use Qualtrics or Google form to collect information anonymously. In some instances, instructors may prefer students to share their names and experiences on a precourse survey, so that instructors have the opportunity to get to know individual students and how to support them as members of the classroom community.

Instructors may want to include a few precourse survey questions to get to know their students as learners:

  • What do you want to get out of this course?
  • What would you like me to know about you and the circumstances under which you are learning this semester?
  • What should I know about you that would help me help you learn better?
  • Where do you do your work? Where do you read? Where do you watch videos?
  • In a few sentences, what is one of the most memorable/exciting/interesting things you learned last semester?
  • When was the first time you remember becoming interested in the subject of this course? Why?
  • Tell me one thing that you have found helpful in learning and studying that seems unique among your friends.
  • What are three of the factors you imagine will be most impactful on your ability to participate fully in the course this semester?
  • Do you have concerns about being able to participate fully during our class time?
  • How do you enjoy learning?
  • When was the last time you had any interaction with this subject matter? What is your reason for taking this class now?
  • What are you most excited about in this course? What are you most worried about?
  • What is the most important thing you hope to learn from this course?
  • How do you feel you learn best? How do you know?

Instructors may also want to consider a few questions to get to know students as humans:

  • What do you prefer to be called?
  • What are your pronouns, if you feel comfortable sharing?
  • What do you like to do when you are not focused on school (e.g. personal hobbies, Yale extracurriculars, etc.)?
  • Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself?