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How Students Evaluated Me This Year — Part One

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Each year I have students anonymously evaluate their class and me, and they always help me become a better teacher. I also share the results in this blog. You can find past posts on this topic at My Best Posts On Students Evaluating Classes (And Teachers).

Our school year ended yesterday, and it’s time for me to begin share this year’s results. I’m also including links to downloadable versions of the surveys I had students complete.

I’ll be writing a more extensive post and Teacher Magazine article about what these results and my own reflections will be causing me to do differently next year. Feel free to share your own planned changes at What Will You Do Differently Next School Year?

I taught three classes this year — two of them were “double periods.” I’ll be writing three separate posts — one about each class.

Today, I’ll begin with my mainstream ninth-grade English class.

This double-period class, comprised of students who need extra support, is always my most challenging one. In fact, I think that all the posts I’ve written about classroom management are based on my experiences each year in this class. It’s one that I would never willingly give-up, though. We use a curriculum and instructional strategies developed by Kelly Young and his extraordinary Pebble Creek Labs.

In addition to completing this evaluation form, I have students write a letter to next year’s ninth-graders. This example is indicative of what was included in the letters my students wrote this year — it shows how carefully students can observe their teachers:

Mr. Ferlazzo is a very patient teacher, he doesn’t use an angry tone to keep you from being loud. Unless you finally go a bit overboard and he’ll tick off a bit but not for long — probably 20 seconds.

Here are some of the key results from the evaluation:

1. In this class, I learned…

The results from this first question were very interesting. Earlier this week, I posted about an experiment I did this year by giving this same evaluation two weeks ago and then right when school was ending. The results were the same, except for the answers to this question. The first time, the answers were divided evenly between “some” and “a lot.” The second time, after students completed a self-assessment reflecting on their work (I share the details in this post), the answers were one-third saying “some” and “two-thirds” saying a lot.

2. I tried my best in this class…

One third said “a lot of the time,” one-third said “all of the time” and one third say “some of the time.”

3. My favorite unit was...

Natural Disasters was the clear winner, with Jamaica coming in second. This was a surprise because usually Jamaica is far and away the favorite.

4. My least favorite unit was…

Mount Everest was the big “winner” here.

5. As a teacher, I think Mr. Ferlazzo is…

One-fifth said “okay,” one-fifth said :good,” two-fifths said “excellent,” and one-fifth said “bad.” This is the largest percentage of “bad” ratings I’ve ever received. I felt like I was more academically demanding — by far — this year than I’ve ever been. I wonder if that might have contributed to some of those negative ratings? I’m going to think about how I can enforce the same level of accountability, but perhaps with a little less of an “edge.” Obviously, there may be other reasons, too, and I need to reflect on what they might be.

6. Did you feel that Mr. Ferlazzo was concerned about what was happening in your life?

Two-thirds said “yes” and one-third said “no.”

7. Mr. Ferlazzo is patient:

Two-thirds said “some of the time” and one-third said “a lot of the time.”

8. Did you like this class?

Two-thirds said “yes” and one-third said “no.” Again, this is the highest number of negative responses to this question that I’ve ever received.

9. What was your favorite activity in this class?

As usual, “Working In Groups” was number one and “Practice Reading” was number two. Practice Reading is the fifteen minutes at the beginning of each class where students can read a book of their choice. “Clozes” were the surprising number three choice. These are “fill-in-the-gap” activities where students have to write-in the correct word in blanks strategically located within a short passage. In the past, clozes have not been very popular. This year, I think I was able to help students view them as more of a puzzle to complete — instead of a typical assignment — and I think that made the difference.

Lots of food for thought.

Please share in the comments your reactions, and if you do anything similar with your own classes.

Next week, I’ll be writing about the other “grades” I’ve received.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

12 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing and opening up your practice here. I did my end of year course evaluations using a Google form this year, and evaluations were anonymous. Some were more helpful than others. Unfortunately, among the 60-70 students who responded, four of them unloaded with the most vile, derogatory personal insults I’ve ever had directed at me – mostly from freshmen. It doesn’t hurt my feelings so much, to have children say bad words to me, but it raises some interesting questions. Obviously, I lost the respect of those few students, and need to think about how that happened. It also makes me wonder if I might avoid that problem with handwritten evaluations. Are students used to be able to say whatever they want without concern for etiquette or community in an anonymous online environment? My other impulse is to tighten up the Google form so that they can only select answers rather than type them in, though I think I’ll resist.

    • David,

      That’s an interesting point. I wonder if and how you could set-up some kind of experiment comparing online and handwritten evaluations. I’ve never done my online — at least, yet…

      Larry

  2. Larry,
    Thank you for sharing your end of year practice. I have never done an evaluation of that kind with my students. I would be interested in hearing their opinions and ideas. My skin isn’t very thick, though, and there might be tears!

    I am new to blogging and must admit this is my first comment on someone’s blog. I have spent some time here on yours today and have included your blog on my RSS feed.

    Janno

  3. I have a lot of respect for you and your honest reflection of your class! Have you ever considered including a comments section for students to support their evaluation? I have students write me a “report card” that has 4 categories that they “grade” me on that are very similar to your items. They give me a letter grade and write a comment for each that supports the grade they gave me (I give them very specific feedback for each assignment so they understand how to give a comment to support a grade and they give me very useful comments accordingly). There is also room for them to include categories for qualities of a teacher that I did not include. The grade and support. They also give an overall grade and any final comments.

    For those students who give a low grade the comments help illuminate why that is. One student gave me an”F” in loudness because I never raise my voice and added that it was a good thing–the overall grade on that report card was an “A”. I had a few low grades in “gives work that is though-provoking and meaningful” because they said that I made them think TOO much—-to them it was a bad thing—for me…not so much! Some also said that the assignments were though-provoking, but not meaningful or useful to them at all. It was several from each class—not a majority, but enough to rethink how I introduce lessons and assignments. A rationale of how it connects with things they may be interested in and how they could use the skill in HS (I teach 8th graders).

    Some of me favorite comments are “You make it cool to be a nerd!” (from a student in my advanced/gifted class “You are like Yoda, but pretty because you are DEEP!” and “You make us want to work harder”

    • Thanks for sharing your “report card.” I do have a section for student comments on my sheet. This year, they were all pretty generic, so I didn’t include any in my post.

      Larry

  4. I’d love to hear more about your Jamaica unit. Also, I’m surprised to hear that students appreciated cloze tests. I’ve always been unsure about the purpose of them. Can you talk a bit about why you use them? I think I’ll try it this year.

    • Our Jamaica unit lasts about a month, and includes its history and a large portion on its music, particularly Bob Marley. Clozes are great for vocabulary development and comprehension. I use ones that we create, and have students create their own for other students to try. It’s not just about thinking of the right words that go in the blank — it’s also about them figuring out the clues to why they’re correct.

      Larry

  5. I continue to be amazed at what you do to maintain your fantastic blog and teach. I had just finished having my end-of-year survey printed when I got your daily email and your survey. Mine was nearly like yours except that you asked students how they could have made the course better. That’s a great question that I wished I had asked. I have had the same students 180 students for two years at my university in China. During those two years, only two left to go to different universities and one moved in at the beginning of this year. Unbelievable stability!

  6. The evaluation that I have been giving my kids at the end of the year has changed my practice more than any book, PD, or PLN. Whenever teachers start talking about a problem in class I will always try to start with a “What do the kids think?” It is the one group of people we tend to overlook when we are trying to find answers to our problems, or to figure or how to make a good thing better.

    The evaluation I use is here (at least it’s close to it–regular copy is at school): http://collaborationnation.wikispaces.com/evaluation09

    I will say that an evaluation tends to be as good as your relationship with the kids and your introduction to it. I spend a lot of time before handing t out telling the kids how seriously I take it and how important their opinion is. There is a large grid section for the “non-writers” and the very open question at the end for kids who want to elaborate on the grid topics, or go off on other tangents and be more personal. The open-ended question at end is the question in which I have learned the most from. Sometimes simply by the amount they write, and what topics they choose to write about.
    I also do the “How to survive in Mr. Bogush’s class” letter. They are just hysterical and such a great intro to class when I hand them out during the first week.
    So for anyone reading this…if you are not handing out evals please do so. A PLN or books or blogs will not tell you what your kids are thinking…you have to actually ask ;)

  7. Just ground a post I did last year on my kids evals:
    http://blogush.edublogs.org/2009/06/26/striving-for-perfection-is-demoralizing/

    …and even a crazy podcast on the same subject from a few years ago! http://turkeycrossing.podomatic.com/entry/2007-07-02T14_57_04-07_00

  8. Larry, thanks for sharing. I am really glad I came across your blog this week.

    This is such a wonderful way to reflect. I did something similar on my blog here: http://teacherwall.blogspot.com/2010/06/reflections-on-2009-2010-school-year.html

    I treat a big part of the summer as a reflective time (probably until the middle of July) and then start gearing up for a new year and improving what we did the year before.
    I love how you made your survey very clear and straight forward. I could probably learn a lesson there. As for doing it online, that might be a great way to get my parents involved as well. I hadn’t thought of that before.

  9. I did a similar thing with my last staff when changing schools, creating a google form. The responses verified how I thought I was doing, as well as my areas of strength and for growth. I didn’t do one for the students, but I think I may do so. I plan on including parents as well.
    Even if I disagree with the results, it as least allows me to understand why some react the way they do and address perceptions.
    And since I’m the one doing this, of my own accord, it’s non evaluative, with respect to my supervisors and, therefore safe(r).

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