Teacher: How my 9th graders graded me

Some confident teachers allow their students to evaluate their performance at the end of each semester, believing they can learn the assessments how to improve. Here’s a report from one teacher who let ninth graders evaluate his teaching over the last semester. The teacher is Larry Ferlazzo, a high-school teacher in Sacramento who writes a blog for educators and a teacher advice column for Education Week Teacher. He also has authored a number of books on education, his latest being The ESL/ELL Teacher’s Survival Guide, with his fifth, “Self-Driven Learning: Teaching Strategies for Student Motivation,” coming out in March.  This appeared on his education resources blog.

By Larry Ferlazzo

Last week was the end of our first semester and, as always, I had my students evaluate the class and me. I’ve previously posted about the results from my ESL class and from my IB Theory of Knowledge class (you might also be interested in The Best Posts On Students Evaluating Classes (And Teachers)).

Here’s the evaluation form I use.

This double-block class is always my most challenging, and always the one where I improve the most as a teacher year and after year.

I list each question, followed by the results, ending with a short commentary:

1. In this class, I learned…. some a lot a little

I always consider this the most important question, and was pleased to see that ninety percent circled “a lot.”

We have a great curriculum, I do a lot of the life skills lessons found in my books, and I work very, very hard. I’m glad to see that it seems to be paying-off.

2. I tried my best in this class….a lot of the time all the time some of the time

One half said “all the time,” a little more than one-quarter said “a lot of the time,” and a little less than one-quarter said “some of the time.”

I wish it was more than one-half saying “all of the time” but, to tell the truth, I’m okay with this percentage by the end of the first semester. The second semester is when I do the life-skills lessons in my upcoming book, and I think that this percentage should go up considerably sooner. I will not be happy if I get these same results in June.

3. My favorite unit was…. New Orleans Natural Disasters Latin Studies

Three-fourths chose Natural Disasters and one-fourth picked New Orleans.

This is a typical result, even though my classes always have a large percentage of Latino students.

4. My least favorite unit was …. New Orleans Natural Disasters Latin Studies

Three-fourths chose Latin Studies and one-fourth chose New Orleans — again, a typical result.

5. As a teacher, I think Mr. Ferlazzo is… okay good excellent bad

One-half said I was good, one-fourth said I was excellent, one-eighth said I was okay, and one-eighth said I was bad.

I’m okay with those results.

6. Did you feel that Mr. Ferlazzo was concerned about what was happening in your life? yes no

Three-fourths said yes and one-fourth said no.

Here again, I’m okay with those results.

7. Mr. Ferlazzo is patient…. some of the time a lot of the time all of the time

Half said “some of the time” and half said “a lot of the time.”

It’s a challenging class — I’ll take it.

8. Did you like this class? Yes No

Half said yes and half said no.

This is typical at the end of the first semester when we’re just finishing the unit that is typically the least popular of the entire year — Latin Studies. By the end of the year I’m confident it will be a 70% yes and 30% no — we have some pretty interesting units coming up.

9. Would you want to take another class taught by Mr. Ferlazzo? Yes No

Fifty percent said yes and fifty percent said no.

This was the biggest surprise for me. Even at this point in the year, the yes percentage is usually higher and grows to June. I’ve got a fair number of students who are not generally positive about anything related to school, so that might have some influence here. However, I don’t want to dismiss it either. It’s a little puzzling — Ninety percent said they learned a lot, and two-thirds said I was either a good or excellent teacher, yet half would not want to have me as a teacher again. Do readers have any thoughts on this difference?

10. What was your favorite activity in this class?
Practice Reading Data Sets Make-and-Breaks Read Alouds Clozes
Writing essays Working in groups

It was a three way tie between working in groups, data sets (inductive learning, which is typically done in groups), and clozes.

No big surprises here, except that “practice reading” (reading for pleasure) usually is near the top, but not this year so far.

11. What could you have done to make this class a better learning experience?

Talk less

Get a different teacher

Help others

Not get mad at Mr. Ferlazzo sometimes.

Pay attention

Do what Mr. Ferlazzo tells me to do.

Be more patient.

12. What could Mr. Ferlazzo have done to make this class a better learning experience

Give less work.

Help more.

Make it more fun.

Let us listen to music

I think they have something with the “make it more fun” comment. There are easy ways for me to add a little more of that into the class. Sometimes I get so focused on covering the material and on classroom management issues that I miss some opportunities for fun.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss | January 29, 2013