Students evaluate teachers

While the strategy of students evaluating professors is common in higher education, this approach is rare in K-12 education. One component of the Measures of Effective Teaching Project at Harvard is just such data. Based on a a decade old survey developed by Ronald Ferguson, an economist at Harvard, a shorter survey had been developed that asks students to describe their classroom instructional climate. Importantly, students (all the way from Kindergarten through high school) are not asked to judge their teachers, but to provide a description of what the classroom environment looks and feels like to them. The survey includes the following kinds of questions:

Caring about students (Encouragement and Support)
> Example: The teacher in this class encourages me to do my best.”
Captivating students (Learning Seems Interesting and Relevant)
> Example: “This class keeps my attention – I don’t get bored.”
Conferring with students (Students Sense their Ideas are Respected)
> Example: “My teacher gives us time to explain our ideas.”
Controlling behavior (Culture of Cooperation and Peer Support)
> Example: “When I am confused, my teacher knows how to help me understand.”
Challenging students (Press for Effort, Perseverance and Rigor)
> Example: “My teacher wants us to use our thinking skills, not just memorize things.”
Consolidating knowledge (Ideas get Connected and Integrated)
> Example: “My teacher takes the time to summarize what we learn each day.”

A recent story in The Atlantic the results are summarized.

The most refreshing aspect of Ferguson’s survey might be that the results don’t change dramatically depending on students’ race or income… But overall, even in very diverse classes, kids tend to agree about what they see happening day after day.

Whether these data should be used in teacher evaluation requires careful consideration, but from a larger evaluative perspective what this demonstrates is the very valuable data that those who are meant to benefit most from programs and interventions can provide. If you ask the right questions, and if you respect their experiences and perspectives.

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