Saturday, April 30, 2011

Getting some useful feedback - what anyone can do.

OK, so last week I spent a bunch of time mostly ragging on the Grattan Institute Report  “Better Teacher Appraisal and Feedback: Improving Performance”. But I don't want to leave you with the idea that I hate feedback.

I do hate the modern trend towards getting judgemental on teachers. I am against the idea that teaching is a profession that can be fixed by firing firing the dimwits, hiring the brilliant and making everyone in the middle fight it out for performance bonuses. (Inevitably: more on that later)

But better feedback for teachers is an essential part of improving schools. After my first two year as a teacher my faculty head had to write an evaluation of me. She had never really been inside my classroom and I had never really been inside hers. Not only did she not know whether I was a good teacher, I had small idea of what a good teacher might look like.
The report I’ve been writing about gives some straightforward indications of how these things might be improved.

Here are four suggestions for how you can get better student evaluations. Next post, four suggestions on getting into each other’s classrooms.

  1. Survey your students at the end of units. It seems incredible that some schools don’t do this but if your school doesn’t then there is nothing to stop you starting. A simple paper survey with a lot of open-ended responses can provide you with a lot of information about how your students are thinking.
  1. Turn an existing paper survey electronic.  If you already do paper surveys in your school there is a lot of value to switching to an electronic form. There’s less busy work. It’s easier to compile summary results. And you may save a tree.

    You can set up an electronic survey inexpensively through
    Survey Monkey. Or for free through Google Docs. If you do this you can offer it to  your colleagues and get data you can compare.  I need to write a unit evaluation myself for the end of the semester. When I get that done I’ll link a copy of the evaluation here. You can also find a few example questions in the aforementioned report.
  1. Share and compare your survey questions. An evaluation is obviously more powerful if you can compare it to other teachers. Go find someone you think is great and con them into using the same survey and comparing results with you. This is an opportunity to learn from them. I’d like to be able to compare my survey responses across schools and systems so I’m going to be looking for some benchmark questions I can make comparisons with.
  1. Use the feedback. All of this is pointless busywork if you don’t use student feedback to inform your teaching. Your goals for a class (high engagement, better essays) might be different from theirs (playing games up the back on their Kevin Rudd financed laptop, getting a B) but you can really read between the lines of their evaluations and see where you are getting through and where you are not. If you run an evaluation mid year and it causes you to change the way you do something, make sure the kids know. When students realise that you are serious about reading their surveys they’ll provide you with more serious and in-depth answers.

1 comment:

  1. I love this idea - will definitely read it and may steal your ideas (with acknowledgement of course)..............