The Truth About Student Evaluations
I am so lucky, I now only have TWO WEEKS left of school for 2016!!!! Although we actually have more than that, I am taking the last week off school because my husband is going in for surgery, and I need to get a few things done that week, with his help, before Christmas celebrations.
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So, lucky me, I am certainly on the downhill slide for the year. But does this mean I am slacking off? NO! It is reporting time, and a time to get all of our Accountability/Monitoring Folders complete before they are packed up and put into storage. It is also a time to clear out all of the “mess” that seems to accumulate in the classroom over the course of the year. But, while this is all happening, I have been asking my Year 7 students to reflect on what they have learnt in Music this year. I do this activity every year, and it can be quite scary, especially as we know, students can be brutally honest, and they will certainly “tell it like it is”!
Early on in my career, I remember sitting down for a mid-year review with my Head Teacher, and he asked me if I had any student evaluations. I nearly freaked out, I didn’t! It was not something that was even on my radar—I was trying so hard to do everything needed to keep up with my new duties, that collecting student evaluations were the last thing on my mind. It was OK, my panic was not necessary, my supervisor asked me if I had conversations with the students and asked them about the units of work as we completed them. This was something I did do, but I never actually thought of it as a formal evaluation. So, now over 10 years down the track, student evaluations are on my radar, and it is something that I routinely do with my classes at the end of a course/unit of work.
I really like doing these evaluations. I tell the students that what they write helps me to improve what I do in the future. And it does. I use what my student tell me, to inform and refine my future lessons. The honest opinions they give, remind me why I do what I do. Some of what my students write brings me to tears, others make me laugh, but they all give me really valuable information about what “stuck” with them during the course.
So before I share some of these from my 2016 Year 7’s, I will go back to the beginning of the year. In the beginning of every class, after we have gone through our basics, I will ask my students to write down what they think they will learn in the course. This information is valuable for quite a few reasons. Firstly it lets me know who has some idea of what we will do and what they might like to do over the course. However, more importantly, it shows me very sneakily, their writing and literacy skills. I read these with a few things in the back of my mind. I am looking for who can spell, who can use punctuation, who can write in a sentence, and even who can actually write in a legible manner. I then use this information to pass on any concerns, but more importantly, it informs my practice and I know what to really model in class time—and I do not teach English!!! I teach a specialist subject—Music.
The writing prompts/ sheets I use are below and you can click on the link to download for FREE!!!!
You can of course use the same ideas at any time during the course you are teaching. My simple beginning of the year question is :
What do you expect to learn in Music this year?
My question at the end of the year is:
What did you learn in Music this year?
(The student above changed classes during the year, that is why the classes are different.)
These simple little questions can of course be for any subject that you teach, and can be a simple writing prompt written on the board and students complete in their books. BUT, I like to keep these, and compare the two responses, so that is why I have students complete onto these worksheets. The choice is yours. If you want to save yourself some time, click on the link below and download the FREE worksheets.
So the truth about student evaluations is simple—do them! These little gems of information are a great way to check on so many different aspects of your students—literacy skills, expectations, what they have learned, and more. I do think though, after a hard academic year, it is really rewarding for me to read what my students really think. It is always a privilege to be in this position—as a teacher. I am so lucky that I have the opportunity to work with our future, and to know that I have made a lasting impact on these young minds, in a way that goes beyond my actual subject content. It gives me a reason to come to work every day, and do what I do.
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Julia from Jooya