Something happened to me recently which I had not come across in my longish career up till now.

Something happened to me recently which I had not come across in my longish career up till now. My students were asked to evaluate my teaching -  anoymous for them, but not for me !To be quite honest, I found it all rather nerve-racking and it set me thinking about the possible repercussions.

At present I am working for a small language school which offers in-house training in Business English to local firms who are global players. The students in my current group of 10 white-collar workers were sent a questionnaire on which they were asked to assess the course. They could give marks from 7 (very good) to 1 (very poor) to things like methodology and didactics, assessments and homework, the practical usefulness of what they learnt, the quality of the materials etc., etc. My language school collated the marks into a table and passed this on to the Human Resources department of the company concerned. So the company could tell how worthwhile its investment in English training was (at least in theory). And of course I was eventually told how I had fared in comparison with the teachers of other courses.

Well,obviously just because I am a Native Speaker doesn't mean that I am a perfect teacher, and I was certainly not expecting to get a row of top marks, but I did find some of the marks and comments a bit surprising. And so I began to wonder how objective this sort of evaluation is.  Are the students in a position to assess how well-prepared I am, for example? Or can they really evaluate my didactics and methodology? Was I (for example) not able to explain something properly or was the student perhaps just not concentrating enough?

What sort of points should the students definitely be asked to comment on?

What effects could this sort of thing have on the motivation of a keen teacher who didn't do so well? We all keep going on about how to motivate the students to learn English. How about considering the best way to motivate US (apart from giving us a pay rise!) to "go the extra mile", for a change?

If I were ever lucky enough to be chosen "Guest Teacher" of this site or allowed to contribute to a Forum topic, this whole question would be one of my priorities. But perhaps meanwhile I will get a feedback to this blog entry.

 

Comments

As a teacher in an institute where evaluation is applied at the end of each semester (every three months) and where hiring and firing is greatly influenced by evaluation, I read your thoughts with interest. Student evaluation needs to be based on a scientific form or rubric where general trends and practices in teaching are tapped into. It should be linked to the goals and the objectives of your program or institute. It should be done annonymously so the respondents actually feel thay can give advice or suggestions. Then, as a final step the results ought to be reported to the teachers being evaluated in two ways: numerical with means and standard deviations (based on statistics comparing each teacher with the average of the group) and with annoymously typed comments to give another type of feedback besides numbers. Rania

I am a researcher and educationalist form India working on Teacher Appraisal and investigating 'Student Evaluation of Teacher' as one of the criteria for evaluation. Could you please suggest the names of the researchers with whom I could collaborate ?

Dear Sudeshna,

You have commented at just the right time. There is now a wonderful site connected with the upcoming big English Language Teaching conference at Cardiff, which is called Cardiff Online. It started about a week ago and will be running for several weeks. I am an Online Moderator for the forum ELT Management and on this forum there is a discussion going on about "Conflict Management". One of the points there is the problematical nature of student feedback. 

Please go to http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2009/ , register and click yourself through to my forum. Here you will be able to get in contact with all sorts of experts and researchers.

Hope to see you there!

Diana (DIM) 

At present I am teaching English at a private university. As you imagine, evaluation is very important there. Students have to evaluate me from 1-5, being "one" "unsatisfied" and the sole question is : "How do you consider the English lessons?Until so far I have always had satisfying results in my evaluation made by my students, but in the last semestre I had about 30 % unsatisfied students. At the middle of the semestre I asked my students to fill in a questionnaire on my English lessons and I had just about 10% negative responses.Can you advise me, what procedures to take?

Thanks for asking this. The problem is definitely that the students only have the one blanket mark to give. "How do you consider the English lessons" basically does not even mean that they are evaluating you, they are evaluating the lessons, so this includes for instance whether they themselves are satisfied with their progress, whether they think their course is good value for money and so on.At least you have found out what "your" mark was!As I see it, you have various possible courses of action:a) You go to your Management and explain why this one mark is not enough and say that the students should be given a more comprehensive feedback questionnaire, dealing with all aspects of their course.b) You continue only to use the "official" evaluation sheet, but you explain to your students before they fill it in that the mark they give will be interpreted by your Management as saying how satisfied they are with you as their teacher.c) You give the students your own questionaire to fill in at the same time as the official one and then discuss the discrepancy with your Management once the results are there (Then you can take course of action a))  - but would you get into trouble for doing this?Diana

I've never been in a situation where the students were required to evaluate the teacher. I do ask my students for informal evaluation quite regularly, I encourage them to be frank.I've discovered that the students don't always understand the path I'm taking them on. I've found it helpful to map out the path clearly from the outset explaining the relevance each component of the course. Then I have to reiterate my reasoning periodically.Most of my students want to learn 'business' English for study, work or immigration purposes. They sometimes baulk at and question the relevance of lessons which are based on everyday non-business situational interactions.It's hard sometimes to convince them that these lessons represent the nuts and bolts of the language which must be mastered. What's the use of being armed with loads of specialized language if one can't engage in a basic conversation?

hi,I am a teacher of English in Iran and I need a useful questionnaire to use in my classes. Can you by any means help me to prepare a questionnaire regarding my classes 

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