Friday, April 04, 2014

What exactly is a good (or great) teacher? (Part 3: Student evaluation?)

This is part three of my series examining various criteria the public, teachers, administrators, government officials and others seem to mention when answer this question: What is a good teacher?

There's no universal standard by which to define a good, let alone great, teacher. There are no universally agreed upon measures rubrics or checklists. Can we simply say we know a good teacher when I see one? We can but shouldn't

Today's topic hits a different note: Positive (or negative) student evaluations.

Are good teachers those whom the students like?

This seems like a good criterion. If students like a teacher, surely that teacher is doing a good job, right?


Obviously it would matter why the students like a specific teacher. Does the teacher inspire? Does the teacher excite the students about learning? Does the teacher transform what might be dull material into something students look forward to learning? Does the teacher help students exceed their own and other's expectations? Does the teacher help students feel successful and/or be successful? Do the students know this teacher cares about them?

Obviously these characteristics would be be excellent indications that students have identified a great teacher. However...

Does the teacher give little homework? Are the teacher's tests easy? Does the teacher teach a blow-off course? Does the teacher show videos and movies that entertain the students but may do little to educate them? Does the teacher 

How did students evaluate the teacher? Were surveys given? Were interviews done? Were responses anonymous or not? Where responses confidential, or were students being "supervised"? Were the evaluation tools accurate? Did the tools ask the questions that got to the root of why students liked or disliked a teacher?

Can we assume that the students (as a whole) evaluate well? Were tehy reading questions carefully? Were they putting thought into their responses? Were they rushing through checking boxes just to finish? Were they vindictive after the teacher called them out or challenged them more than they'd otherwise prefer? Student may have felt they learned a lot, but can they be sure they actually did (see p. 61)? Could students confuse teaching ability with their own enthusiasm or distaste for the subject matter?

All said, I do think there is great promise in students' evaluations of teachers. But there are some major concerns along the way.

Other posts in the series:
Part 1: Inspiration?
Part 2: Test scores?
Part 4: Grades and scores?
Part 5: Closing thoughts

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