A couple of weeks ago, I had students fill out my semi-annual “Teacher Report Card.” It’s a simple Google Form with a bunch of Linkert scales that I use as an informal survey about my teaching. How have I done so far? What’s been working for them? What needs to be improved? These are all questions I hope to answer when students complete the report card at the end of each semester. It is anonymous.
The most valuable constructive feedback the students offered me this go around centered around timing. A glaring example of this is horrible I am at leaving adequate time for students to complete their exit ticket quizzes. On quiz days, we (read: I) often get caught up in a discussion at the start of class. Of course, I think there’s still enough time to fit in everything else I have planned. Wrong! This forces many of them to must stay after to finish their quiz which makes them late for their next class. Several students rightfully called me out on this.
Another issue they highlighted on the report card was how and when I post our weekly DeltaMath assignment. I vow to post it on Monday, but rarely do that (it’s due Sunday). Sometimes it’s Thursday morning before the assignment gets up. This is unacceptable. Especially when I have no worthwhile excuse. One student’s emphatic plea on my report card says it all: “Remember to post what you said you are gonna post on the exact same day !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Other aspects of my teaching were praised. Almost all of my students said that the classroom feels welcoming. This was reassuring given the effort I’ve put into rethinking the physical context of my teaching. Other things — like our frequent use of the whiteboards, my enthusiasm for teaching, and using language they can understand — were also rated highly by students. Also, 96% of students believe that I take interest in their lives.
There were mixed reviews about other aspects of my teaching. Student affect is a dimension of my practice that I spend a lot of time unpacking and where my mind usually wanders. Admittedly, feelings are complex and don’t tell the whole story, but I find them helpful to explore in the classroom setting. Several data points stand out:
- 73% reported that I make them feel important
- 72% reported that I push them out of their comfort zone
- 83% reported that I make them feel heard
- 77% reported that I make them feel responsible
- 68% reported that I empower them
Curious about these numbers, I glanced back at a couple of my pre-pandemic midyear teacher report cards. In January 2018, my survey was slightly different, but here were the opinions of my students on some of the same issues:
- 61% reported that I make them feel important
- 67% reported that I push them out of their comfort zone
- 72% reported that I make them feel responsible
And in January 2019:
- 69% reported that I make them feel important
- 65% reported that I push them out of their comfort zone
- 68% reported that I make them feel responsible
In looking over the comments left by students on the report cards from 2018 and 2019, it’s evident that my students now feel better supported during class. Back then, most comments revolved around me “not teaching” or leaving student questions unanswered. Now, student concerns are more varied, with most of them reflecting pacing or timing concerns (as I highlighted above).
A lot can change from year to year, both within the makeup of my classes and myself. But it’s fulfilling to see that at least my data is trending in a direction that I’m proud of. I only hope that my teaching is actually heading in the same direction.
While I look forward to combing through the results of my teacher report cards each year, my excitement for them — which used to border on obsessive — has relaxed in recent years. The main reason for this is my growing reliance on cogens for student feedback. Cogens, which I host weekly, offer me a far more dynamic platform to exchange ideas with students. Unlike a survey, which is static and unidirectional, my weekly cogens are full of nuance and debate. It’s where my students and I and engage in critical discourse that results in direct action to improve the class — action that we take together. We raise questions and discover solutions through collective consciousness. Cogens serve the moment. A spreadsheet cannot reach this level of sophistication.
That said, I still value the teacher report card. It may be slower and less granular than my cogens, but it’s also more holistic and represents all of my students instead of just a handful. This is why I still have my students complete it. Plus, by administering the report card each year at the same time, I can make comparisons and see how my teaching is evolving from year to year.