As regular readers know, I regularly have students in my various classes complete anonymous evaluations which I tabulate and share on this blog and with my colleagues. You can find previous posts about this at My Best Posts On Students Evaluating Classes (And Teachers).
I’m a little behind on this since school ended three weeks ago, but here are the results from my International Baccalaureate Theory of Knowledge class. After each question, I list representative student responses followed by a short commentary by me:
What are the the two or three most important things you learned in this class?
It’s not so boring to learn.
I learned about fallacies.
Question what we are being told, and not be so fast to believe them.
The truth isn’t always what it seems.
Think beyond your limitations.
I think students got what I hoped they would out of the class.
What did you like about this class or how it was taught?
Group work can really expand our knowledge
The class is fun.
It made me feel smart.
It was fun and engaging.
I liked the atmosphere. It was the only class I looked forward to.
I liked working in small groups and teaching others.
I worked very hard at keeping the class engaging, and having students work in small groups, including having them prepare lessons that they taught weekly (to small groups). I specifically push to have the class scheduled during the last period of the day because I think it’s upbeat and energizing, and students seem to feel the same.
How do you think this class could be improved?
The main issue students talked about was that I should be more strict and have greater control over the class. I agree with them here. I feel that I am very good at class management, but I approached this class too loosely this year. The previous year, the class was much smaller (I only had fourteen students) and they were all very highly motivated International Baccalaureate Diploma candidates. This year, at my request, we opened the class to non-IB Diploma candidates and more than doubled its size to thirty-one students. They were a great bunch but, nevertheless, the levels of self-control and motivation were certainly more varied. However, I approached class management the same way I had done previously. It definitely wasn’t “out of control” or “bad,” but it was a strategic error on my part that I will not repeat next year.
A few students also commented that they felt like I talked too much, but I’m not sure I agree. With all the small group work we did, it’s just hard for me to see that this was an issue. I’ll see if I get similar feedback next year. If so, then I’ll know it’s a problem I will need to work on.
What grade would you give Mr. Ferlazzo as a teacher? What do you think he does well? What do you think he could improve?
About sixty percent gave me an “A” and forty percent gave me a “B.” Students said I was good at explaining things. Again, the issue of being more strict and talking too much came up here, too.
Are there ways you think what you learned in this class will help you in the future? If so, what are they?
I learned to question things.
I’ve learned to consider everything before making a judgment.
Working in groups made me a better team player.
My presenting skills improved.
The answers I’ve listed here are good, but I was generally disappointed that many students were not able to see and share how they might be able to apply what they learned in their future lives. Next year, I want to be more intentional about incorporating regular reflection opportunities on this topic, similar to what I wrote about in “Relevance” & Student Learning.
As always, student feedback gives me plenty to think about, and provides even more impetus to improve my craft.
Any feedback is welcome.
I often hear teachers speak resentfully about the pressure to make a class “fun”. They equate fun with lack of rigor. It is a matter of teaching style, not content.
Teachers are not alone in this assumption. Over the years, students have revealed that they took my course because it was fun and then bam-they get hit with more responsibility for their learning than they do in the “hard” classes. Some are disappointed but engage in the learning anyway. By the end of the first term their grades increase and they are amazed that they get it. I had a student this semester, who rarely passes classes with more than a D. He got a D first term, then second term a 92. When I asked him what had changed he stated ” I learrned that I could do it so I could do it.” Score one for education!
I too gave my students an end-of-course evaluation, and asked them which learning approach best suited their needs and which was least effective. It was no surprise that there was a range of responses for what worked and what did not work. One trend, however, was that students wanted more class discussions. I love class discussions, but only if they allow everyone to participate, grow, and reflect. Also, I think they can be a rather easy way to be disengaged from critical thinking. It’s important to have student feedback, yet getting objective feedback is more difficult and I am often skeptical of the quality of student evaluations. For me, the most effective student feedback has always been the final product, which shows their growth, awareness, and development. I like the idea of focusing the discussion on an evaluation of a community of learners, whereby the teacher is one member (hopefully an important member!). The expectation is then for the community to collaborate, to support, and to succeed. How effective were we as a community of learners? What did you contribute to our discussion? How can we improve our collaboration?