Get HyPE: Using Wordle for Teacher Reflection

As part of the teacher evaluation process in my school district, students are administered mid-year client surveys (student perception surveys) in specific classes. The surveys are a combination of free-response and quantitative (Likert scale) questions. Students complete the surveys online with a proctor, and the process takes about five minutes.

According to Hanover Research, “student surveys are a reliable measure of teacher effectiveness,” and “student ratings [are] significantly more accurate in predicting student achievement than teacher’s self-ratings, principal ratings, and principal summative ratings.” What our students have to say about our teaching is incredibly valuable. They see (and hear) it all.

How can we effectively sort through our students’ comments so they help us improve our teaching practice? Where do we begin? Do we focus on the negative comments, the things we might change or improve, or the positive comments, the things we already do well?

I met with my supervising principal last week to discuss my survey results. He explained that many teachers dwell on the negative comments and have trouble looking past them. He came up with an idea to help the teachers he advises focus on the positive things their students said about them. Using Wordle, he created a word cloud with all of the responses to the question, “I learn best when my teacher.” and printed it out in color.

The largest words in a word cloud are used the most frequently. In describing me the words that popped out right away were: learn, fun, games, explains things, play, and teacher. Some of the medium words were: examples, activities, learning, shows, and interesting.

I was incredibly (and still am) grateful that my principal took the time to create my individualized word cloud.

My principal then asked me the following reflection questions:

  1. What does this client survey tell you about your practice and student achievement?
  2. In what ways did I make the most meaningful connections with students (or parents, colleagues, etc.)?
  3. In what ways are your personal perspectives about your practice consistent or inconsistent with those of the students, parents, and/or colleagues, etc.? (In our district, parents and colleagues also have the opportunity to complete client surveys.)

The conversation we had about the third question has really impacted my teaching practice and overall confidence. My principal helped me realize that the way I view myself as a teacher is incredibly similar to how my students view me. Focusing on the positive words from my survey helped me realize that what I’m trying to accomplish each day is actually happening within my classroom.

Okay, it’s time to Get HyPE.

I would like to challenge you to try three things:

  1. Give your students the opportunity to complete surveys in your class. Make sure your surveys are valid and reliable.
  2. Give yourself time to really reflect upon your teaching practice throughout the school year. I’ve found the best times to reflect are during winter break, three-day weekends, spring break, and the summer.
  3. Create a word cloud with your students! You can make your own word clouds using Wordle.

Please feel free to start a conversation about this topic with me on Twitter @GHSaysRockChalk.


Student Perception Surveys and Teacher Assessments. (2013, February). Retrieved January 23, 2016, from

(The purpose of the Get HyPE column is to discuss topics that will excite and inspire the physical education community. My goal is to encourage you to think about or try something new every month. The name of the column also has a secondary meaning. It includes the name my students call me, “G-H,” and the abbreviation for physical education, “PE.”)


Join PHE America in Supporting SHAPE America’s 50 Million Strong by 2029 Commitment

What are you doing to support 50 Million Strong? PHE America has published many essays illustrating what 50MS is and what some teachers are doing to support it. Just type "50 Million Strong" in the Search box to get a listing. But how about YOU? What are you doing? PHE America will continue to share insights and opinions about 50MS but we can't succeed alone. As others have said, "It depends on US" to advance this vision of transforming the physical activity and health habits of the nation's 50 million students by 2029. Join the team and let us know what you are doing so we can share ideas with colleagues around the country. Success will only happen if each one of us takes responsibility for changing the activity and health habits of the students we teach. Added together that's how to reach 50 million lives!

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