New York Times: In a New Training Program, Students Teach Teachers
This sounds like an awesome idea.
I frequently asked my students for feedback and suggestions about my teaching style. I found that when I made this more open-ended (by just asking for feedback and suggestions) they either couldn’t think of anything or weren’t willing to volunteer information. But when I asked more specific questions, particularly yes/no ones like “do you find it easier to understand when I color-code verb conjugations?”, my students were much more able to assess their own learning and give me meaningful feedback. It would have been really interesting to have my students teach a lesson (as described in this article) so that I could observe what they did to make things more accessible and interesting to their classmates.
In addition to having students give teachers general feedback on their teaching, there has been growing discussion about having students formally evaluate their teachers. In DC, the IMPACT evaluation system currently incorporates the observations of both principals and Master Educators (who provide perspective as subject/grade level experts). Some wonder if there will come a time when students also provide feedback that makes a difference in whether teachers are ineffective, minimally effective, effective, or highly effective. I love this idea in theory – after all, five observed lessons are not nearly as able to give an accurate, representative picture of a teacher’s abilities as the perspective of the kids who spend all or part of every day in that teacher’s class. Of course, many questions have to be answered in order to develop a system of student evaluations of teachers.
- How would student evaluations differ across grade levels and content areas? Second graders can’t be expected to provide the same input as tenth graders.
- What sorts of areas are students qualified or not qualified to evaluate? Which ones matter? (Should teachers get points for being creative? Entertaining? Students have different standards of what makes good teaching than adults do.)
- What would happen if student evaluations of a teacher were positive but their test scores for that year didn’t reflect significant learning?
- How often would students evaluate their teachers? If they did more than one evaluation per year, would teachers receive credit for making improvement from the first to the second?
- Would ALL students evaluate a teacher? If not, how would you select the ones who would?
- How would you weight the opinion of the students vs. the opinion of administrators and/or Master Educators?
I think we are a long way from having students formally provide input to teacher evaluations… but in the meantime, teachers should proactively solicit the feedback of their students. It helped me to be a better teacher, and it showed my students that I was truly committed to teaching them (one of the things that I know they most appreciated about me).