Can Students Help us Improve our Teaching?

When I was in the classroom teaching high school math and science, I made a practice of surveying my students at the end of each year to get feedback regarding how they perceived my effectiveness at a teacher. I realize now that the process was very summative in nature, but at least it was an attempt on my part to garner constructive criticism to improve my teaching.

Recent efforts are underway to help teachers improve by videotaping their lessons and critiquing themselves, many times with a principal or lead teacher. The Gates Foundation has funded an initiative to videotape teacher lessons and have them evaluated, using checklists, by people who have never visited the school or developed any kind of relationship with the teacher—an idea that I strongly criticize.

Where are the students in the process?  Don’t they have some ideas regarding how we teachers can improve? If we allow them the opportunity to become a part of our self-evaluation they might also learn some things about their own learning. Larry Ferlazzo posted a recent blog his experiences with videotaping his and other teachers’ lessons and having students involved in evaluating them.  He articulates how transformative the process was for him and his students. 

Erika Burton, Ph.D., founder of Stepping Stones Together, notes that, “Self-reflection and discussion are two very important actions necessary to make better sense of anything. Children need the opportunity to actively participate in their learning reflecting and evaluating their understanding. We need to develop independent learners through practice.”

Some are critical of the method.  One teacher stated that “things get worse when we begin listening to the students.” In response,  another says, “are we looking for quiet classrooms where everyone is doing the same thing, with a controller-controlled dynamic? If that’s the case, then of course ‘listening to the students’ is a bad idea. If we really want to teach students to manage their own learning (and eventually professional goals), to be the leaders of their own lives, this is exactly the kind of lesson that’s needed. It’s messy and loud, not to mention slow – but it’s important, and reflection is crucial.”

About mprater

I'm a recently retired school teacher/administrator continuing to help people grow through personal learning. When not blogging, I do consulting work for schools and organizations, make presentations at conferences, and research for publication. At the same time, I have to set aside enough time to enjoy the "good life" of retirement!
This entry was posted in Administrators' Corner, Education in the News, Teaching Tips and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Can Students Help us Improve our Teaching?

  1. globeandtims says:

    Students do a really good job of sensing what good teaching is. I think they can see many good traits of a teacher but can be fooled by the cult of personality who never offers feedback. I would like to see how the teaches are evaluated.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s