When I was teaching at the college level, I knew that at some point towards the end of the semester, I would get an on-campus mail envelope full of Scantron forms, narrative forms, and the kind of pencils you get when you go play mini-golf. That’s when I knew that it was evaluation time, that sometime in the next week or so, I would be standing in front of my students, asking them to evaluate my timeliness, professionalism and effectiveness, and then waiting out in the hallway, trying not to eavesdrop or imagine every nasty comment.
Truth be told, I got very few negative remarks on course evals in the six years I spent teaching at that level, but then, I think sometimes the students who feel lukewarm about the class just don’t fill out the forms at all. But I do think I was good at my job then, and I think I’m good at my job now. I really enjoyed getting my evals back too– between the smiley faces and and “Thanks for everything!” comments, I often got some really valuable constructive feedback, and sometimes some validation that a weakness I had noticed was actually there. But without that structure, it has been a little trickier to get my students’ honest feedback on the course. Sometimes I’ve had informal discussions with them at the end of the year, and other times I’ve tried to check in with them after different assignments, especially ones that I’m trying for the first time.
This year, I created my first English 9 Report Card (click for document) and gave it to my students during our exam review time. I didn’t require it, and I didn’t save class time for it, because ninth graders are often so worried about exams, they want each and every one of those exam review minutes. Next year, I think I will mimic my old experience and save at least fifteen minutes for it, from one of the last few classes, and go outside while my students handwrite on the form. Since we are a laptop school, they could handwrite them and I probably would not be able to recognize their handwriting! I may even save them to open until after the semester is over, and write a little note to that effect on the evaluation itself. I did manage to rainbow-color-code it this time, though, which ninth graders often appreciate (and honestly, I do too).
I would love to hear from anyone who uses an evaluation form or tool with grade 9-12 students, or even if you just have some thoughts or feedback for me.