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How My Ninth-Grade English Classes Evaluated Me This Year

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As regular readers of this blog know, every year I have students evaluate my classes and me and post the results — warts and all — here (as well as email them to my colleagues). I think that making the results public, and letting students know in advance that this is what I’m going to do, may help them take it little more seriously than they might otherwise.

I do a different evaluation process for each class, so each year write several different posts. This one is from my double-block ninth-grade English class and from my one-period pre-International Baccalaureate ninth-grade English class.

Another advantage to making these results public is that it makes it a little easier for me to review results from previous years. That kind of comparison can give me more food for thought. You can find all these posts at My Best Posts On Students Evaluating Classes (And Teachers). However, since this is the first time I’ve taught an advanced English class, I don’t have previous evaluations to compare it to, though it can be intriguing to compare the results to my double-block class.

Here are the results (I’ll give the results and analysis for my double block first, followed by the results from my Pre-IB class):

1. In this class, I learned…. 2/3 said “some”; 1/3 said “a lot”; none said “a little” (double-block)

This is the typical response….until the last day of school (which is this coming Friday). On that day, I provide students with an essay they wrote in September and an essay they wrote in May, along with an “improvement rubric.” Students then assess each of the essays and see the dramatic improvement they typical made (you can read more about this process, and the research behind it, here. At that point, I usually tell students I’ve misplaced their evaluation of me and ask them to do it again. Nothing changes…except for the responses to this first question. Then it typically goes to 1/3 saying “some” and 2/3 saying “a lot.” I do this two-step evaluation process as sort of my own “action research” project. I’ll write another post next week saying if this kind of change happens again, or if it does not.

My advanced class rated it as 1/3 “some” and 2/3 “a lot”

Most of the students in this class came in with, and continue to have, a high-degree of intrinsic motivation, so these results are not a surprise (except I did think there would be a slightly higher number under “a lot.”

2. I tried my best in this class….1/3 said “a lot of the time”; 1/3 said “all of the time” and 1/3 said “some of the time.” (double block)

This is the typical response I get each year. I think I need to get serious about revisiting The Best Resources For Learning How To Best Give Feedback To Students, and perhaps figure out a better way to regularly remind myself about implementing those strategies. I’m not sure what else I can do — besides strengthening the life skills lessons I’ve written about — to try to increase this level of effort.

My advanced class rated themselves as 1/2 “a lot of the time” and 1/2 as “all the time.”

Again, they’re pretty intrinsically-motivated to begin with…

3. My favorite unit was…. Natural Disasters came in first and was closely followed by Mt. Everest (double block)

Usually, Natural Disasters and our unit on Jamaica are close, and Everest is typically the least favorite one. Jamaica didn’t even get one vote this year as the favorite, and I’m not sure why. I’ll have to ask students this week. Katie Hull, my colleague, and I both made substantial cuts to the length of the Everest unit this year, and I’m pretty sure that’s a major reason it was a hit. It’s typically an extremely long unit. We used the time we saved to have students create their own units on topics of their choice (which I’ll write about in a post later this week).

My advanced class ranked it the same way — Natural Disasters followed by Mt. Everest.

Again, I think the reduction in time for Mt. Everest paid-off.

4. My least favorite unit was....Latin Studies came in first, closely followed by the one we do on Nelson Mandela (double block)

Latin Studies is heavily literature-based, and includes poetry and a more essay-writing than the other units. It’s typically ranked near the bottom, as is the Mandela unit. I it’s time for me to consult with any of my colleagues who do similar student evaluations (other than my close colleague and co-author Katie Hull) and Kelly Young from Pebble Creek Labs, our school’s outstanding consultant, to see if these low-rankings are typical across-the-board and, if so, are there any changes to the unit we should consider. And if there is enough information to find that they are not typical, then I should probably try to figure out what I need to do differently.

My advanced class ranked it the same way.

5. As a teacher, I think Mr. Ferlazzo is…. 1/3 said “okay”; 1/3 said “good” and 1/3 said “excellent.” No one said “bad” (double-block)

This is my typical ranking. I’ve written a further analysis below.

Half of my advanced class ranked me as “good” and one-half ranked me as “excellent.”

There are basically never any classroom management issues in my advanced class, while it’s not uncommon for a number of students in our double-block classes to be facing multiple changes. Because of that, it’s easier to focus all of my energy in the advanced class into just teaching English, while that’s not always the case in my double-block, where I need to often teach other life-skills. I feel like I constantly work towards being a better teacher but, given the circumstances, I’ll settle for the 1/3, 1/3, and 1/3 ranking in my double-block. I’m going to write more about this topic in a future post.

6. Did you feel that Mr. Ferlazzo was concerned about what was happening in your life? 2/3 said yes and 1/3 said no (double block)

That’s my typical ranking.

My advanced class gave the same assessment.

7. Mr. Ferlazzo is patient...practically everyone circled “some of the time” (double block)

This is the result that I’m probably surprised with the most. Usually I get a 2/3 “some of the time” and 1/3 “a lot of the time.” I’ve got to think about this one. I like to think I’m a pretty patient teacher.

My advanced class ranked me as 1/3 “some of the time”; 1/3 “a lot of the time” and 1/3 “all of the time.”

8. Did you like this class? 2/3 said “yes” and 1/3 said “no” (double block)

That’s slightly lower than the typical response, but I can live with it.

Everyone in my advanced class said they liked the class.

9. What was your favorite activity in this class? “Working in groups” came in first and was closely followed by “writing essays.” (double block)

Working in groups always comes in first, but I was a bit surprised at seeing “writing essays” being ranked so highly — it usually comes in much lower. My colleague Katie and I worked hard this year and developing and implementing a very scaffolded writing process and, based on my conversations with students, for many it was the first time they have been successful writers.

My advanced class ranked “clozes” (fill-in-the-blanks) as number one and working in groups as number two. None of them ranked “writing essays” as a favorite activity.

I think they really saw the clozes as challenging puzzles (clozes came in third place in the double-block class). I’m going to ask them this week about their low-ranking of essays. I suspect it was because I didn’t do as much scaffolding since we only had half the time.

10. Which activity do you think helped you learn the most? “Writing essays” came in first, and then “practice reading” (when students can read a book of their choice for fifteen minutes at the beginning of each class) and “working in groups” tied for second. (double block)

My advanced class ranked “data sets” as number one, followed by “working in groups.”

I’ve previously written about data sets, and shared what my students have said about them, at Helping Students Write Essays.

There’s lots of food for thought here.  I welcome any reactions, and would love to hear from teachers who have their students do similar assessments.

I’ll be posting the results from my other classes later this week.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

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

8 Comments

  1. Well done Larry. I also ask my students every semester to tell me what they liked, what they didn’t like, and what I could do better. And darned if every time I don’t walk away with some GREAT ideas!

    After graduation last week, a graduate walked up to me and said I need to have students do more speeches to prepare them for speaking up to someone other than a teacher.

    My US History kids said I needed to ensure that everyone, not just the US History kids, knows about the Middle East, the major players,and how it effects us. I’m not sure how I’ll make sure everyone knows, but I’ve got some ideas ;-)

    smiles, cyndy

  2. I also have each one of my classes reflect on the school year, the curriculum and on my teaching. My AP classes used an online google form and my Pre-AP classes have a pencil and paper version.
    Reflection on the school year, the students, and my own teaching is invaluable to me. I also provide access to the online responses to my administrators.

  3. Mr. Ferlazzo,
    Hi! My name is Deana Nunn. I’m a student in Dr. Strange’s EDM310 class at the University of South Alabama. I’m enrolled in the Secondary English/Language Arts program. I found your post to be quite informative. Having the students do a survey at the end of the year is a great way for us to be able to improve for the upcoming school year. It was interesting to see that only 1/3 of your students thought that they learned a lot. Having them compare essays from September to the one done May helped them to see that they really have improved. I’m sure that they were pleased with their results.
    Do you think that your Natural Disasters unit was more popular this year because of all of the natural disasters, we as a country, have experienced recently? I’m wondering if they were a little more interested in this subject because of the publicity or did you do something different in this unit to heighten their interest. Also, I have never heard of clozes, so I looked it up. This seems to be a great activity for early writers. I’ll have to remember this when I have my own classroom.
    Reading your post has given me a lot to think about. I enjoyed it and I look forward to reading more.
    Deana Nunn @deananunn
    My Blog

  4. I was deeply humbled by your post on what 9th graders think of your qualities as their teacher. I have only taught EFL to French working people – mostly engineers and technicians – since 1976, and as I finally realize now, the evaluation sheet I give them at the end of each course has become a formality instead of a reality.
    I don’t know if this is because I do a lot of research about their real professional needs before beginning a course, or because they are simply “poli”.
    You have made me realize that I’ve had an “easy life” as an EFL teacher concentrating on needs – usually in extremely small groups and one-on-one teaching situations, instead of dealing with the many unknown factors that kids will make transparent, and which adults might hide knowingly or unconsciously.

  5. Pingback: Results from my 2011 End of Year Student Survey « « Design4Learning Design4Learning

  6. I am impressed by all you did with your students.
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