April 6, 2015 by HCDE-Texas
Most teachers are eager to know how they are performing in their classrooms. We expect and await what our instructional leaders observe. All is documented on district or school forms. That’s all well and good.
But how about taking the feedback on performance one step further? How about asking the students in your class how you’re doing? No way, you say. Afraid they might not take it seriously or use the chance to document their gripes?
Back in my early years of teaching, I decided to give my students a chance to tell me how I was doing. I constructed a survey of items that I thought reflected most of what was occurring in my social studies class. I asked them about my teaching behaviors. Was I prepared for class and did I know my subject area? Was I fair? On the checklist I included items about classroom activities, tests and knowledge gained.
Types of feedback devices you can use
- Survey method:
One type of feedback is the survey mentioned above. Constructing your own would be best but you can find examples online by searching “Teacher Evaluation by Students” through this great resource: www.rucharacter.org. This 29-item survey asks great questions, but please add a few open-ended questions to catch student comments on behaviors or activities not mentioned. Examples: What is one thing that your teacher does well? What is one thing that you can suggest to help this teacher improve?
- Class focus groups:
After you explain what a class focus group does, students are grouped and use a series of questions to discuss your class. Each group summarizes its discussion and presents the teacher with its report. Questions are designed by the teacher. However, your students should be able to add their comments if they think of something the teacher overlooked.
- Note to teacher:
Students write “notes to the teacher” when they want to communicate versus having a one-on-one conversation. Throughout the year, encourage your students to write notes to you. Give no time constraints. Having a “note to the teacher” form would be advisable. A place to deposit the note is part of the routine.
The who, what, when, where about feedback…
Still a bit leery of having your students give you feedback on your teaching performance? To get engaged with inquiry, be prepared to accept what your students have to say. If they love you, you’ll likely get high praise. If you have recently chastised them, they’ll be less loving. Overwhelmingly, I found that students are honest and appreciate giving them a chance to evaluate the classroom.
Here are some questions and answers about the process:
When do you get feedback?
I recommended administering surveys at the beginning of second semester. Waiting until end-of-year doesn’t afford time for change.
What grade levels should a teacher consider using student feedback?
Middle school and high school students are capable of answering the surveys and by extension the class focus groups and notes to the teacher. Perhaps fifth graders are candidates, but consider shortening the survey.
What are some examples of feedback received?
• During U.S. History class, we combined three classrooms for guest speaker lectures during election times. Some students complained they did not like the large group and could learn more from our guests in a small-group setting.
• Students complained in another class that I wasn’t tough enough on off-task behaviors.
• One student complained that I “corrected” him more than others.
About the blogger:
Mary Lynn Johnson is curriculum director for social studies at HCDE. The veteran Spring ISD teacher, former assistant principal and program director follows her passion to share the educational advantages of learning about the past. Her first love is teaching social studies and turning students and teachers on to history, geography, government and economics. Her zeal as a social studies leader earned her the 2012 Texas Social Studies Supervisors Association “Supervisor of the Year” award.