The two main uses of questionnaires in the classroom are as a communicative activity and as a tool for evaluation.
As a communicative activity, students have a set of questions, similar to a market survey. Taking your example of information technology in your previous posts in this forum, questionnaires can include the following:
Do you have translation software?
How long have you had it?
How often do you use it?
Rate its usefulness on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 = extremely useful and 10 = not useful at all.
To use these questionnaires you can give one copy to each student. Everybody stands up, mingles, asks and answers other members of the class their questions. The students note down the answers to the questions. When students have had some time to ask the questions, they can write up their reports possibly incorporating the following structures:
60% of people interviewed have translation software. 10% of these respondents find it very useful, etc.
The teacher can write the questionnaires or the students can do it in groups. If students write the questionnaires, they will have different ideas in their groups and there will be more variety during the speaking phase. Ensure that questions are correct before the speaking starts because students will be asking the same questions repeatedly. If they ask a question that is not correctly formulated, they risk internalising an error.
Questionnaires for evaluation are usually designed by the teacher or a director of studies. These questions will elicit students’ opinions of the classes. Questions can include:
Which would you most like to study: speaking, grammar, vocabulary…?
Do you think we spend enough / not enough / too much time on speaking, grammar, vocabulary….?
What do you think of the ratio of time that the teacher and students spend talking?
Such questionnaires can give you valuable insight into students’ opinions and expectations. If you consider the answers carefully and provide what students are asking for, you can avoid many problems or complaints. However, it can be difficult to please everybody. It’s important to go with what the majority want and to explain this to the class.
Remember that questionnaires require thought and careful design. It’s a good idea to get the opinion of somebody else (e.g. another teacher) before asking students to fill it in.
When designing questionnaires, both for communicative and evaluation activities, take care with the wording of questions. Closed questions will give one word answers; for example, do you have a computer? Yes or no. Open questions elicit longer answers; for example, what do you think of the new translation software? If you want a short communicative activity, go for closed questions. If you want students to spend more time speaking, you should use open question. In evaluation, think about this distinction too. If your questionnaire involves open questions, it will take the teacher longer to study and summarise it.