At the end of each semester, the District mandates their students to complete the course evaluation survey for their classes. These surveys ask students to assess their courses’ curriculum, methods of learning and the teacher’s performance and attitude throughout the semester.
When the forms were first introduced, Paly envisioned a gradual move toward a college-style feedback system for teachers. The intent was to enable students to share complaints and praise teachers to improve their teaching style, including content in their lectures and overall interaction with students.
At the time, most students thought the implementation of this survey was an influential development, with the potential to drastically improve learning and student satisfaction at Paly.
The reality of the feedback forms the District provided is quite different. Teachers are not required to act on or even read any of the feedback they receive.
Essentially, these forms are more of a formality with little to no impact.
In fact, teachers were just recently given access to their feedback from last semester. This delay is a slap in the face for students who thought their opinions would finally create an impact on their teachers, since half the first semester has already passed.
How is a teacher supposed to act upon feedback which they never received? Teachers could potentially read through hundreds of responses from last semester in the next few weeks and begin to improve their lesson plans and classroom style for the following quarter and the rest of the year.
However, the late release of last year’s forms brings potentially negative effects by unperfected teaching methods used for the first nine weeks of this year. Regardless, it is unrealistic to expect teachers to go through all of their feedback forms and alter their teaching methods at this point in the semester due to heavy workloads.
In order for teachers to continue improving their classes and for students’ opinions to be accounted for it is essential for a new method of student-teacher feedback to be implemented.
This method must meet several criteria. First, teachers must read the feedback forms and act upon it. If certain complaints are shared by the majority of students, teachers should be required to respond to the complaints and come up with a way to ameliorate them. Second, teachers must be given access to and made to read the feedback in a timely manner.
The purpose of and the need for teacher feedback are clear. Teachers are not perfect, and neither is the information they teach or the methods they use to teach it.
There will always be room for improvement in the classroom, and teachers must be constantly aware of students’ struggles and respond to feedback.
Paly administrators must ensure teachers are given access to student feedback within a few weeks after it is submitted, not several months after. It is time for the District to implement an effective student-teacher feedback system instead of using a faulty, untimely survey.
Students should have at least a sliver of a voice in the quality of their education on the teacher-student level. If not, who shall dictate the progression of the quality of education in our district?