For several years I have used a Course Evaluation with my grade 10 to 12 students. The form, although far from being statistically sound, has been very valuable and has greatly influenced my practice. By listenting to my students and allowing them to provide honest and critical feedback I know I’m building better relationships with my students and also improving my practice. I primary concern for me has always been trying to meaningfully engage my students – the evaluation has been a window into how I can do that.
When I first used this form with students I was very nervous…what if they tell me that I’m the worst teacher ever or tell me I’m weak at what I perceive are my strengths? In truth, some of my early feedback was very critical and required me to reflect seriously about how I organize and instruct. However, over the years I’ve come to look forward to the exercise. In fact, in some classes I do the evaulation at the half way point so there is time to make changes. What I have learned over the years is that students (at least those I’ve taught) want some flexibility in the learning through assignment choice and options to work collaboratively. They also like ownership in the classroom and want input into how the class is organized. For example, students decided that as a motivator to work hard all week that if they were to cover a weeks worth of content that on Fridays we could study “fun” topics such as video editing, graphic design, or game programming. The best comment I’ve ever received was that students look forward to my class … on Sunday nights.
Now, granted I teach in an an elective area so it’s likely the students are more motivated due to the fact they chose to take the class. However, could this work in core classrooms? I do believe that by giving students a chance to have a voice in the class and an influence on how it operates schools can improve student engagement. Anyone out there had experience with this? I’d love to hear from you.