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Let’s Have All Students Evaluate Their Teachers

In college, students finally get to evaluate their professors, but until then, there are few venues for a student to provide feedback on the teaching they receive. But long before college, students’ feedback would be useful, if we only sought it out. Unfortunately, there have been scant opportunities for students, even in high school, to evaluate their teachers.

A study reported in a New York Times article, “What Works in the Classroom? Ask the Students,” reveals an unsurprising truth.

The article begins by answering this question: “How useful are the views of public school students about their teachers?”

“Quite useful, according to preliminary results released on Friday from a $45 million research project that is intended to find new ways of distinguishing good teachers from bad.”

How amazing that we believed it was necessary to spend $45 million to discover what was surely a commonsensical answer.

I can think of many more ways to spend $45 million in education while simply beginning the practice of student evaluations in all schools starting in 5th grade.

Zoe Weil, President of the Institute for Humane Education
Author of The Power and Promise of Humane Education and Most Good, Least Harm

Image courtesy of Dominick Gwareck via Creative Commons.


About zoeweil

I'm the co-founder and President of the Institute for Humane Education (IHE). IHE works to create a world in which we all live humanely, sustainably, and peaceably. We do this by training people to be humane educators who teach about the pressing issues of our time and inspire people to work for change while making healthy, humane, and restorative choices in their daily lives. We also work to advance the field of humane education, and to provide tools and inspiration to people everywhere so that they can live examined, meaningful lives. I'm also a writer. So far I've written six books and several articles.


4 thoughts on “Let’s Have All Students Evaluate Their Teachers

  1. Student feedback is so essential in helping a teacher learn how to teach. Given the chance, students would gladly help cover our pedagogical blindsides by telling us what we should be doing to help them learn. I used to ask students to write me quarterly about what we’d done and what I could have done better. I feel like now my students and I have conversations about what and how to learn much more frequently, but those early letters really helped me get over my fear of criticism and insecurities about following students’ leads in teaching and learning.

    Thanks for the post, Zoe –

    Best regards,

    Posted by Chad Sansing | December 29, 2010, 5:43 pm
  2. thanks zoe…

    I think we should start before 5th grade, I can think of several ways in which feedback can be given, probably starting at 1st grade. Even more to the point…why only written evaluations or quarterly feedbacks chad? I believe that there should be a continual conversation that exist between each and every student and every teacher.

    Do one evaluation a day, with one student, you will get through all of them by the end of the year. Or spend a week, at the end of each semester, doing individual session,2-3 minutes a piece with each student, or have them come in after school.

    Often times there are teacher-parent conferences, why not, teacher-student conferences? Why they should begin early and done often, keeping the voice of the student present, and consistant throughout the school year, strengthening the relationship between the student and the teacher and continually working to improve the learning. Why evaluations are not the norm and grades are, is baffling to me? If you have to give grades, do so, after an evaluation conference, I am positive, that knowing that much more about the student, will help you evaluate their “performance” or “learning curve” that much more.


    Posted by educationalrevolutionist | December 29, 2010, 8:49 pm
  3. Hi Zoe, I also ask my students (undergraduates) to write to me once a week about what works and doesn’t work in my teaching–for them. I had to initially encourage them not to write “nice!” things, things that they regarded as supportive, and to dig in. (I also had to deal with my own terror of being critiqued.) I have found this practice essential in strengthening my own teaching, understanding the complexity of the enterprise, and building a classroom culture where we really all are learners. It helps everyone in the room to be in the mode of–well, that wasn’t so good…What can we learn from it? Which is what learning is. Right? I’ve also been impressed by how personal learning is. Something that rocks for a few students lands leadenly for another. What can I learn from that, too?

    Posted by Kirsten | December 30, 2010, 10:50 am


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