As regular readers know, each semester I have students in my classes use anonymous evaluation forms to rate the class and my teaching. You can see previous reports at My Best Posts On Students Evaluating Classes (And Teachers), where I also explain the process I use and have evaluation forms that can be downloaded.
In addition to teaching English and U.S. History to English Language Learners, I also teach an IB Theory of Knowledge class. It’s always a fun course to teach, and, generally, students enjoy it as much as I do. Here the questions with representative sample responses. My reflections follow:
1) What are the two or three most important things you have learned in this class so far?
I’ve learned that I have to see things in different perspectives because you’d be open to a whole new world if you were just a little more open-minded.
You really need to look at things from different perspectives. There often is not only one correct answer.
Many students wrote that the concept of confirmation bias (the tendency to just see evidence that agrees with your viewpoint) was the most important thing they learned.
I wonder what opponents of IB think when they see these kinds of responses (many believe that we’re pushing a “United Nations agenda” on students).
2. What have you liked about this class or how it was taught?
We have fun. We actually do! (“fun” was mentioned a lot)
I liked how we did many different activities and it wasn’t all the same all the time.
It’s “hands-on” mentally — it makes you think a lot.
“Working in groups” was also on many sheets.
3. How do you think this class could be improved?
Be more precise with directions.
More class discussions.
Don’t kill as many trees with all the copies you make. (this comment was made several times)
I need to think about the comments about directions — that could be a very good point. I’ve reduced the number of copies I usually make, but perhaps I can reduce it even more.
4. What grade would you give Mr. Ferlazzo as a teacher? What do you think he does well? What do you think he could improve?
All students, except for one, gave me an A or an A+ (one student gave me a B). Several students said I make the lessons fun and engaging. Several said, again, that I could improve on giving better directions and making fewer copies.
5. Are there ways you think what you learned in this class will help you in the future? If so, what are they?
I was more than a little disappointed in the responses to this question. In fact, almost half of the class left it blank. The most common comments that students made were feeling that they would feel more comfortable making presentations and be able to “argue better.”
Helping students in all my classes see how they can apply what they learn in their lives has been a priority of mine this semester. Obviously, it’s one area where have to do a better job.
6. What are your concerns — if any — about the upcoming semester? What you think Mr. Ferlazzo and you can do to respond to them?
Most wrote that they were concerned about doing the TOK oral presentation and essay that are the major requirements in the second semester and which can be evaluated by IB reviewers. Those are understandable concerns.
7. What grade would you give for the effort you have put into this class so far this year? Is there anything you want to do differently next semester?
Most students, justifiably, feel they deserve an A so far.
8. Is there anything else you would like to say about this class that you haven’t already said in your previous answers?
This class is a great way to end the day!
I wish there was another TOK class in my senior year!
I’m generally pleased with the results of the evaluation. However, my biggest concern is that many students could not, or would not, identify how they could apply what they are learning in the future. That’s a disappointment, and I need to spend a fair amount of time reflecting on what I can do differently.
Any other feedback is appreciated….
I think it’s difficult for teens to see how what they learn today will impact their adult lives. We know why they need to learn to read, write and think critically, and we can list adult situations when those skills will be necessary, but most teens don’t have the first idea what their adult lives will be like. It’s so great that you have them engaged and actively improving these skills — I don’t think you need to worry about getting them to see how they will use them later. It may be too abstract for them at this point.
You make a good point, especially for a class like TOK. I still think, though, there may be some ways to make it a little more clear. But maybe not…Thanks.
I think that, especially in a theory class, students don’t understand how they will apply the knowledge. It isn’t like learning to read and write, they know what they are doing with that. It is more like teaching them how to think, how to be critical, and how to evaluate. These concepts are difficult to put into words or concrete skills. Other than that, it sounds like the comments were great.
It is very easy for teachers to grade students, but the other way around is downright scary for teachers. I commend you for this. I believe that all teachers should allow their students to evaluate them. The problem that comes into play is sensitivity and what I fear most, the revenge factor. If the survey isn’t electronic by nature, then I’m afraid that immature teachers could treat those who were negative towards them with contempt the following year(s). I think that internet based surveys would work best and that all teachers should try it. All will benefit.