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Tip of the Week: Student evaluations. Of you.

Apparently we’ve been on some sort of double secret probation since last fall. The state of Kansas was in danger of losing its exemption from NCLB because we weren’t tying teacher evaluations more closely to student growth and state assessments. The state may have gotten off the hook by encouraging local districts to link “significant” student growth and teacher evals.

And, yes, teacher quality is incredibly important. But I personally have issues with politicians and others not directly involved on the front lines claiming to know best when it comes to measuring teacher quality. Common sense and research suggests that kids are successful or not for lots of reasons.

But while the political issues of teacher evaluation by schools and districts will continue, I still believe that as professionals we have an obligation to reflect on a personal level about our own best practice. Constant improvement is a good thing. And I also believe that there is a lot of value in asking our kids, our customers, to be a part of that evaluation process.

We’re not talking here about formal teacher evaluations here – this is personal professional development. Asking questions about what we do and how it impacts our students.

I never really thought much about having my students complete evaluations during my first couple of years teaching. It was obvious, even to a rookie teacher, what needed to change, right? Plus, it just wasn’t done. I mean, who asks for the opinions of school children?

I would always try to spend time reflecting at the end of the year:

  • What went well?
  • What went wrong?
  • Were my assessments valid?
  • Did I handle classroom management issues effectively?
  • What content should I add / eliminate for next year?
  • Do I need to adjust my rubrics?

But it was only one point of reference. Some excellent mentors eventually convinced me that feedback from my customers would be a good idea, that a good student evaluation can help in my reflective process.

So I started talking more with my kids, both informally throughout the year and formally at the end. Questions about the classroom environment and arrangement, did I provide enough time for projects, how well did I respond to student questions, did I create a friendly learning climate, what strategies and activities worked best, what sort of communication works best, more or less technology and what they liked / disliked in general.

Need a bit more rationale for this?

Try an article, Why Kids Should Grade Teachers, from The Atlantic that discusses the power of student feedback. You can find the Measures of Effective Teaching research mentioned in the article here. And you may not agree with all of it. I get that. But the idea still makes sense to me. Kids spent months in my classroom – their perspective is important in helping me understand the impact I’m having on them, good and bad.

Students should feel free to put their name on the evaluation or complete it anonymously. And while you’ll need to take the information with a grain of salt, you also get some great feedback and insightful comments.

I’ve attached a couple of quick samples. Feel free to adapt them for content and age levels.

Reflect away.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Absolutely on the right page. Student feedback is crucial to getting better at one’s job – especially if you genuinely love teaching and really do want to see your students achieve their best.

    I teach for a university in Australia, and student feedback is a big part of the yearly evaluation process. Not all teachers like it, but then again not all of them have particularly thick skin. I have found it valuable in an unexpected way. Rather than feeling as though I have had my flaws pointed out (though I do have a few), I have felt overall the that process has highlighted what my students seem to like and that has meant that I can focus more on that.

    A good example is that my students have reported that my honesty is well received. I answer quite a lot of questions with ‘I don’t know – I will have to look into that’. Like many academics I have my specialty that I feel comfortable and knowledgeable on, but I feel it would be misleading to give the image of being authoritative on material I only covered as an undergraduate. Apparently this is not as common as I had thought. Many students feel as though their teachers make up answers as they go at times, which made my honestly about my shortfalls a bit of a standout.

    Great post – keep them coming.

    May 11, 2014
    • glennw #

      Thanks for the comment. Agree 100%! Student feedback can be uncomfortable but is also very powerful data that we need to listen to.


      May 12, 2014

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