My Algebra II Student Evaluations

I’m a big fan of anonymous student feedback, because I know I always have things to learn. I struggled this year when decided what format I would use to solicit this feedback. It was a decision between:

  1. a set of short answer questions and numerical responses (e.g. “On average, how long do you spend on homework each night?” or “If you could change any 3 things about this course, what would they be, and why?”)
  2. an open-ended narrative comment

This year (as I did last year), I decided to have students write the open-ended narrative. The reasons I made this decision were the same as last year. First of all, if I pose the questions, I’m pretty much telling students what to focus their criticism on. I’m telling them what I think is important. Instead, I want them to tell me what’s important. Second, I write comments on my students at least twice a year. Students should have the opportunity to write comments on me too. At the beginning of the year, I told my students that we are making a contract with each other. I want them to know that I care if I’m keeping up my end of the bargain.

My charge to them:

Hi all,

Your homework is to write a comment about the class and about my teaching. I am always looking to improve and to keep on with what I’m doing well, and so I really appreciate you taking the time to write these comments. You don’t have to make it anonymous. It’s totally up to you, but you should feel more than free to do so. Please type it into the form attached, and print it out before class to hand it!

Always my best,
Mr. Shah

Write an comment about your experience in this course. You can write about anything — things that are going well, things you’d like to see changed, aspects about my teaching that work and don’t work, your opinion of smartboard, anything.

And that’s it. I’m not leading them to talk about anything specifically. And I think that the feedback I got has been really valuable. More than observations from administrators, student feedback is the most valuable.

Honestly, there’s a terrifying aspect to these evaluations. I’ll put it this way… I asked for these recommendations in January. I didn’t look at them until early February. I couldn’t look at them until early February. I carried them with me to and from school every day, waiting until a moment when I felt like I could face them. What if they were all terrible? Or they focused on areas of my teaching that I’m sensitive about? What if I am a terrible teacher?

But when I finally countenanced them, it was after I realized “even if I’m bad at what I do, I need to know that in order to do better.” I mean, it’s what I tell my students — you have to know where you are weak in order to know how to become strong. You can’t just bury your head in the sand and hope things will change. You have to change them.

Here’s the rundown of my Algebra II student evaluations. Which made me realize the anxiety was uncalled for.

I. Am. A. Good. Teacher. (Not that I don’t have places to improve.)

MY ALGEBRA II EVALUATIONS

strengths

  • “[M]y experience has been… surprisingly positive for a math class”
  • “[Y]our fast-paced teaching style… suits me”
  • “[A]bility to interpose math applications to real life” *
  • “Smartboard [will be] a valuable reference for studying for midterms”
  • “I appreciate your ability to interpose math applications to real life, like the fractals activity” *
  • “I can always count on… your organization. You always have your [Smartboard] ready and you are always punctual”
  • “You make math fun”
  • “[Y]ou have a lot of energy, and that makes the class really interesting. Unlike some subjects, every day class is different, this makes learning fun and enjoyable”
  • “[I]t’s helpful that you are so willing to meet for extra help”
  • “Rather than just writing ont he board what we can earily just take notes from in the textbook I feel you are really teaching us algebra”
  • “I can also tell that you really care that your students learn what you are teaching”
  • “Our class gets along very well which makes this class interesting as well”
  • “[Mr. Shah] is probably the first teacher that compels me to work in class rather than fall asleep. This is for a variety of reasons; it could be his dress, which is always vibrant, his enthusiasm, or his witty power points”
  • “Generally I have found the class to be an extremely gratifying experience. It is well-paced, well-taught, and well-structured”
  • “I appreciate how you tell us about assessments in advance, and the use of smartboard shows me that you do care about the students and teaching”
  • “I feel accomplished when I do well on one of your tests”
  • “[Y]ou do a really good job of keeping the class focused and on top of what’s going on. You always make sure that everyone knows what is going on”
  • “[M]eeting with you is SO helpful… I know for sure that meeting with you has boosted my test scores up”
  • “Math class is one of the very few classes I don’t dread going to”
  • “I like that with the [Smartboard] presentations the materail is broken down into manageable pieces at a time and then throughout the period we work up to the whole concept”

areas for improvement

  • “I can imagine… if I were ever to miss a day of class… it could be a problem”
  • “[Change] the amount of time we spend going over the homework”
  • “[C]hange the amount of practice problems we do. Sometimes, I feel that we do the same type of question a lot of different times”
  • “[I]t might be helpful if we could slow down a bit”
  • “As a teacher I’d give [Mr. Shah] a B+/A- (more A-)… because sometimes our questions are unanswered”
  • “At some points I feel like the class is moving too fast for me”
  • “[T]he class seems boring at times… I know math is not boring and can be made fun”
  • “I would like to suggest that it’s ok to go off on tangents and talk about topics that are slightly unrelated”
  • “I’d recommend that [it] would benefit me… to slow down a little”

*I actually do not do this much, but a few students did mention it! So I guess I should look for applications, and try to integrate them into what we’re doing more often.

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2 comments

  1. I do scales on specific questions, with short answers, for seniors in 1-term electives. For everyone else I ask for one thing they liked and one they didn’t like. Nothing anonymous.

    As many kids focused on a genuine negative that I need to repair but prefer not to discuss publicly, I’m not saying. But from one class about a third mentioned moving too quickly, which I will reflect on. Though many others rated that same thing as a positive, as it gives us time to go off topic, or play games. I did get some specific feedback on units that went particularly well or poorly (different in different classes).

    The admonition not to get personal, with the promise that nothing said would be used against them, they were enough to get me some useful feedback.

    Jonathan

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