Before I came to my current school, I taught at a charter school where students and parents were given an anonymous survey each year where they could say anything they wanted about teachers. Teachers were required to meet with their respective department head to discuss the results and what implications they gave for making change in the teacher’s practice. Teachers were required to take seriously all accusations and statements made in the surveys.
It was horrible.
The feedback was often vicious and nasty, and, as it was anonymous, there was no way to ask follow-up questions or to figure out how the best intentions of a teacher had felt so different to students and parents. For me, the whole experience was a waste, with limited learning or feedback that allowed me to improve my practice.
Fast-forward a few years and you can imagine my horror when our assistant superintendent started talking about the “value” of feedback (not what I had experienced!). Add to that the fact that she told us the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education had added student surveys to the evaluation process and I was sick to my stomach.
However, I have found that one simple change has made a world of difference for me–no anonymous surveys. I require students to put their names on feedback for me. I know many people feel that anonymous feedback is more honest and maybe it is, but I have found that….
- Anonymous feedback allows people to slide quickly from constructive criticism to nastiness and
- Using as anonymous approach eliminates any possibility of following up, whether to recreate an effective practice or to improve on one that isn’t working as well.
Instead of trying to guess who wrote a nasty comment, I can dive into the feedback. With this change, I have found myself eagerly looking forward to the feedback, both warm and cool, from my students. I always follow up, ask clarifying questions, and say thank you. I also love being able to “grant a wish”–can we listen to music during assessments? Sure. Can we use dividers on the desks? Sure. I wish you would post the answer keys. They are already posted in the homework document. Sparkles and fairy dust abound!
But, on a serious note, I appreciate having the opportunity to get honest-but-respectful feedback from the students and I incorporate their feedback regularly into my own practice. No homework on Fridays? Nope. Feedback is not a wishlist. Changing my practice based on student feedback? Absolutely!
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