As a presenter, I both fear and love when event organizers pass along feedback from attendees. Sure, nothing’s scarier than reading what people really thought, but if I don’t hear the good and the bad, how can I possibly get better? How can I know what’s working and what needs to be changed?
I’m sure, as a teacher, you have similar feelings towards your students’ honest feedback. You’d like to know what they really think, but formal, anonymous evaluations from students are probably pretty darn scary.
Let’s structure student feedback in a way that is less intimidating for you, but still gives you valuable feedback from the kids you’ve worked with all year.
I have three goals for these entry-level evaluations:
- Non-Judgmental: students aren’t critiquing you.
- Informal: no bubbling in criteria from 1 to 10.
- Quick and repeatable: easy to fill out and read through.
And it would be great if kids didn’t even realize they were completing an evaluation.
My teacher likes to…
My favorite informal evaluation came from our annual sixth-grade science camp. Students filled out information about their camp leader such as:
- The thing my camp leader says the most is…
- My leader thinks ______ is most important.
- My leader loves to…
- My leader doesn’t like it when…
- The moment I will remember from our cabin was…
To many kids, this was probably just a fun form, but these responses revealed a lot about their leader, especially when looked at in the aggregate. If most of the group wrote that their leader said “be quiet” the most, you can bet that was going to be discussed with the leader’s supervisor.
Try Three Questions
Try something similar with your class. Come up with three informal questions about you and your class, and see how kids respond. Notice that there’s no judgment questions. No “what I like most about my leader” or “what my leader can improve.”
- My teacher says _____ the most.
- My teacher thinks ______ is important.
- My teacher doesn’t like it when _____.
When I did this with my students, I discovered that:
- I said “Ok, friends” more than I realized.
- I thought that “working hard” was important (probably because of this poster).
- I did not like it when more than three people sat on our class sofa (yes, this was a frequently broken rule, but perhaps I made too big a deal out of it!).
If you’ve never gathered student feedback before, you’ll love seeing what kids pick up on, and what you didn’t even realize about yourself. And hopefully it will encourage you to pursue student feedback more frequently.
Be sure to check out the somewhat similar evaluation that Joelle Trayers used with her young students.
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