Interest Inventory/Survey for Students
By Natasha Hoover
The Importance of an Interest Inventory for Students
If you can make connections with your students and their world, you can help them become better, more motivated, higher achieving students. Getting to know your students at the beginning of the semester is vital to creating a positive classroom atmosphere that fosters learning. Your subject area and grade level are irrelevant - everyone needs to take time out of the first day of class to take an interest inventory. Later in the semester, this vital information can help you bring disengaged students back to the classroom and assist them in achieving their personal bests.
Have you conducted an interest inventory before?
What is an Interest Inventory?
An interest inventory is a simple questionnaire to determine what your students enjoy and what their lives are like. It can help you figure out both what they like and what other demands they have on their time. As much as teachers would like to imagine their class is the only thing a student has to spend his or her time on, it simply isn't true. By high school, many students not only have higher level classes, but also juggle sports, clubs, jobs, and their social lives. Some are even the main providers and caretakers at home! This discontent between being seen as a providing adult at home and a 'child' at school can cause them to rebel in class, even though they are perfectly capable students. In order to glean as much information as possible, the inventory should mix fun and serious questions in a non-threatening manner.
How to Write an Interest Inventory
There are several key elements to a successful interest inventory:
- Make it user friendly. Try to keep it to only one page (front and back) and make it look less intimidating by increasing the font size on the heading and/or using different fonts.
- Make sure to leave enough space for the students to write!
- Mix up the questions. Don't put all the serious ones in a row and all the fun ones in a row!
- Cover a variety of bases by including questions from each of these categories: your content area, the student's interests, and the student's background.
- Make questions that seem innocuous but can tell you a lot. For example, asking "What is the furthest point away from home you've visited?" seems like a fun question, but it can tell you potentially tell you about the student's worldview and economic life.
- You must include a short statement saying they do not have to answer questions that make them feel uncomfortable. This is a legal necessity. However, you do not have to emphasize this fact (and I advise you do not emphasize it or you may get a bunch of blank sheets back from students who don't feel like filling it out!).
You should design your own interest inventory to match the grade level of your students, but you are more than welcome to use this interest inventory for inspiration. I don't mind if you want to just use my inventory, but I think personalizing the interest inventory to suit your students is best!
Sample Student Interest Inventory for High School
Student Interest Survey
Please answer all the questions to the best of your ability. You may skip answers that make you uncomfortable.
Do you live with your parents, grandparents, or a guardian?
What is your favorite subject in school? Your least favorite subject?
What do you not like about your least favorite subject?
What is your least favorite part of studying history?
What other schools have you attended?
Do you have any brothers or sisters? How many, and are they older or younger than you?
Do you have a computer and internet connection at home, or do you use the school media center's computers?
What kind of job do you want after high school?
What is a recent movie you enjoyed and why did you like it?
What is the furthest point away from home you've visited?
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself two years ago?
Do you like to play sports, watch them, or both? What sport is your favorite?
What celebrity or athlete do you admire and why?
What teams or clubs do you belong to?
What two activities are you most likely to do after school?
What is your favorite TV show?
What is a responsibility you have?
How would you describe your best friend?
How would your best friend describe you?
Where do you like to hang out with your friends?
If you have the time, I highly recommend conducting a reading inventory, too. No matter your subject area, your students will have to read, and probably write. Teaching literacy should be a part of every class, not just English. You can help your students this semester and beyond by teaching them how to be more proficient readers, writers, and speakers.
Putting an Interset Inventory to Use
These simple questions can help you learn a lot about your students, their home lives, their personalities, and their obligations. You don't have to use them the first week of school - file them away and keep them on hand. In addition to the practical information, an interest inventory gives you doors you can open later in the semester to better access the student. For instance, if a student of yours seems totally checked out in class, look to see what his or her favorite TV show or actor or whoever is. Watch a few episodes of the show or read up on the person and then use this show/person as an example in class or ask the student's opinion about a recent episode or an upcoming movie. It is amazing how much more attention a student will pay if s/he feels connected and listened to! It sounds a little cheesy, but for some students an interested adult piquing their interest in school could literally be a life-altering event (in a very positive way).
It is never too late to conduct an interest inventory. The first week of school is the best time, but you know the saying "better late than never." It is never too late to improve your classroom and the academic lives of your students, even if it's the last day of class!