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How Students Evaluated Our Class & Me This Semester

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As regular readers know, I have my students do regular, anonymous, evaluations of our classes and me, and post the results — warts and all — here, along with some analysis (You can see previous posts at My Best Posts On Students Evaluating Classes (And Teachers)). I think that letting them know that I will publish the results, and share them with my colleagues and administrators, helps them take it seriously.

Yesterday was the last day of our first semester, and students in my two ninth-grade English classes — one a double period class, and the other an Advanced one period class — completed this simple form. I haven’t reviewed evaluations from my Intermediate English class yet, and will share them next week. Since my Theory of Knowledge students are in the middle of preparing for their Oral Presentations, I’ll be waiting for a week or two until they complete their class evaluation.

Here are the results (the question is followed by the results from each class and, in some cases, my analysis):

1. In this class, I learned…. some           a lot              a little

In my two period class, three-fourths circled “a lot” and one-fourth circled “some.” In my Advanced class, practically everyone circled “a lot” (there were two who circled “some.”

MY ANALYSIS: Those are the kinds of results I’d expect, and I’m generally pleased by them.

2. I tried my best in this class….a lot of the time        all the time        some of the time

Both classes had similar responses — a third, a third, and a third.

MY ANALYSIS: I think one thing I can do to help with this is by re-visiting The Best Resources For Learning How To Best Give Feedback To Students. If I’m a little more intentional about the praise I give (specific on effort rather than general on intelligence), I might be able to up this response by the end of the year.

3. My favorite unit was…. New Orleans                  Natural Disasters             Latin Studies

Both classes had the three pretty evenly spread-out, though New Orleans was narrowly on top.

MY ANALYSIS: This is a surprise to me, because typically Natural Disasters is the clear favorite.

4. My least favorite unit was …. New Orleans            Natural Disasters            Latin Studies

Considering the response to the previous question, it’s not surprising to find they all came out relatively equal, with New Orleans being the least “least favorite.”

5. As a teacher, I think Mr. Ferlazzo is… okay      good      excellent       bad

In my two-period class, one-fifth said I was excellent, three-fifths said I was good, and one-fifth said I was okay. There were no “bads.” In my advanced class, three-fifths said I was excellent and two-fifths said I was good (there was one okay).

MY ANALYSIS: I can certainly live with those ratings.

6. Did you feel that Mr. Ferlazzo was concerned about what was happening in your life?      yes      no

In my two period class, three-fifths said yes and two-fifths said no, while in my Advanced class, everyone except for two said yes.

MY ANALYSIS: Since I believe relationships are crucial to classroom success, I try to make it a very high priority to learn what’s going on in student lives, and to try to be helpful. Because of that belief, I’m surprised at the response from my two-period class. However, in retrospect, it make sense to me. I have a number of students there who are facing many challenges, and to whom I devote a lot of energy. Because of that, I spend less time developing relationships with the students who seem to be doing okay. I suspect this is not an uncommon challenge for teachers. I am going to try to carve out opportunities to chat more with students in that second category.

7. Mr. Ferlazzo is patient…. some of the time         a lot of the time         all of the time

In both classes, it was roughly a third, a third, a third.

MY ANALYSIS: So, it appears that two-thirds of my students feel I’m pretty patient. I suspect that the one-third who rated me at “some of the time” might be some of my more challenging students. These, of course, include some who might be the ones I should be showing the most patience with, and I can work on that.

8. Did you like this class?    Yes                  No

In my double period class,, three-fourths said yes and one-fourth said no. Every student in my Advanced class said yes.

MY ANALYSIS: Part of the difference in response, I think, can be attributed to the student make-up of the classes. However, I also need to think about what things I might be doing differently in the Advanced class and if I can do any of them in my two-period class.

9. Are you looking forward to the second semester of this class?      Yes        No

No surprise, the responses are similar to the answers in the previous question.

10. What was your favorite activity in this class?
Practice Reading                 Data Sets                    Make-and-Breaks                  Read Alouds             Clozes     Writing essays             Working in groups

Working in Groups was, as usual, the number one ranked activity for both classes. In my two-period class, the next most popular one was Writing Essays. In my Advanced class, number two was completing clozes (fill-in-the-blanks).

MY ANALYSIS: I was very surprised to see Writing Essays as the second most favorite activity in my two-period class because that is clearly the most difficult activity. I think, though, seeing that they are becoming more capable of good writing might be boosting their self-esteem and, as a recent study found, developing self-esteem can trump other pleasures. I think my Advanced class began the year with more writing skills, but the clozes were new to them. I wonder if their choice might relate to the same study results?

11. Which activity do you think helped you learn the most?
Practice Reading                 Data Sets                    Make-and-Breaks                  Read Alouds             Clozes     Writing essays             Working in groups

Both classes ranked Writing Essays and Data Sets (a form of inductive learning requiring reading and categorization) as the top two here.

12. What could you have done to make this class a better learning experience?

Both classes shared similar responses, like “pay attention, stop talking, work harder, read more”

13. What could Mr. Ferlazzo have done to make this class a better learning experience?

My two-period class reinforced what we learned from our videotaping experience (see Videotaping teachers the right way (not the Gates way)) — I should talk less and faster (I sometimes adapt the cadence I use with my Intermediate English class). One student did write that I should “Stop Trippin’”

Students wrote in my Advanced class some useful suggestions, too. For example, more than one asked that “explain things more clearly.” While in my two-period class, I sometimes over-explain instructions, clearly the opposite is true in my Advanced class, and I need to do better there. Also, I thought it was interesting that several students said they wanted “more test/quizzes so we can learn more.” My suspicion is that they are very familiar, comfortable, and successful in taking tests. The assessments in my class, however, relate more to reflection, portfolios, essay-writing, and higher-order thinking assignments, which they are probably less familiar and less comfortable with. Interesting…

ADDED QUESTION: After students completed the form, I explained to them a distinction we make in community organizing — that “opinion” is something you think without talking to anybody about it, while “judgment” is what you show after you talk with others about your opinion and take into account what you might be able to learn from them.  I went on to say that too many people in the world act on their opinion, while we need to show better judgment.  Students then arranged themselves in a rows, speed-dating style, and students shared what they wrote on their evaluations (I sat at my desk so I couldn’t hear what they were saying and just yelled “Switch!” when it was time to change partners).  Prior to their beginning to share, I said that I was going to give them time to change any of their answers if they wanted to afterwards, but that it was also perfectly fine to keep everything the same.

After we were done, I also asked students to write at the top of their form either:

I changed answers

or

I didn’t change answers

Coincidentally, four students in each class changed at least one answer.

So, what do you think of my student’s responses and my analyses of them? All feedback is welcome.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

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

3 Comments

  1. Hi Larry. Thanks for being so honest in your sharing. We’re about to introduce this type of class/teacher evaluation (literally, in the next few days), so this timely piece might help alleviate some fears, and confirm the possibilities for others. Cheers.

  2. I admire the fact that you do this kind of evaluation with your students and that you share the results with us too. I promise to do something like this as well at the end of the school year. I just wanted to ask if there is any other kind of formal evaluation that you go through as teachers, in your institution.

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