What we learned about student evaluations during the last few blog posts can be summarised down to these five points:
- Nobody likes them.
- They can’t accurately measure how effective a teacher is.
- They are hard to design and analyse.
- They are the best tool currently available.
- We need a new system.
Some argue that student evaluations of teaching should be completely abolished. There’s simply no reason to listen to student voices as they don’t know how to teach or how knowledgeable a teacher is in a subject.
But let’s think about that. Can this really be true?
If we are to trust students to become the leaders of tomorrow and to invent smart solutions to problems created by previous generations, we MUST be able to trust them to, at the very least, provide meaningful feedback to teachers. Just because some students leave bad feedback, we shouldn’t remove the possibility for everyone.
There’s just no getting away from the fact that students experience the teacher’s expertise first hand, and are thus a prime source of information that can be used to develop better teachers.
I’m not saying it’s the only source of information, I’m saying it’s a vital source.
Teacher evaluations have existed for almost a full century and many alternative ways of getting feedback have been experimented with. Despite both a wide discontent towards them and many attempts to build better systems, teacher evaluations are still pretty much unchanged.
What’s difficult in developing a better system is that effective teaching is extremely complex to reliably measure. There’s not even a general agreement regarding what constitutes effective teaching.
The most agreed upon aspects to produce a holistic view of effective teaching include Student Attitudes, Teaching Practices, and Student Achievement, as we saw in an earlier post. But there are plentiful examples of other aspects that could influence the symbiotic teacher-student relationship.
Once you understand what constitutes effective teaching from the teachers perspective is when you can start getting down to what is truly interesting with performance feedback: How to improve your skills.
A better way to understand how the teacher’s role impacts learning, what individual characteristics to enhance and reduce, and in the end, how to become the best teacher possible. That’s what a new feedback system truly should aim for. And of course, preferably remove some of the large pain points in the current system while we’re at it.
These pain points include questionable validity, present bias, low response rates, no censoring of vulgar language, time-consuming analysis, and more, just from the teachers perspective.
Boring, time-consuming and purposeless, say students.
So, how can we fix this?
Well, for a new system to be fully adopted, we probably need to solve the issue of measuring teacher efficiency in a more reliable way.
Today, most teacher evaluations take Student Feedback as the only source of input when assessing a teacher’s skill. A few have started to take in Peer Observations into the greater picture.
That’s surely a good place to start. Here’s what we at hubert.ai are imagining:
We’ll try to take in as many useful data sources as possible, mash them together, crunch the numbers, adjust for common bias, and finally spit out comprehensive recommendations that the teacher can choose to act upon. Over time we could even cross-examine data to see trends in what methods work better for a specific subgroup or discipline.
And in the middle: Almost like… a hub?
Right now we at hubert.ai are taking our first trembling steps towards this utopia of teaching insights. We’ve chosen to start working with the source most recognised as the most influential in teaching effectiveness measurements: Student Feedback.
But with a twist. And without any surveys.