Hey kids, what do you think of your teacher?

Posted by Michael Simkins on August 31, 2010

Earlier this month, the California Legislature passed a bill (SB 1422) that “authorizes the student government of a high  school to establish a committee to develop a survey to solicit student opinions of different class aspects and  teacher effectiveness, and establishes requirements for the  administration and results of the survey.”

Now, like any bill, this one has its critics.  Are students mature enough and do they have sufficient experience and emotional detachment to make valid judgments of their teachers?  Will they use the evaluation process as a way to “extort” a higher grade from a teacher in exchange for not being slammed as an incompetent jerk?  Will the bill and its various requirements actually retard efforts by forward thinking teachers, districts and schools that have already developed and implemented surveys for students to provide feedback to their teachers?

Those questions have yet to be answered.  In the meantime, there is no reason we can’t start thinking about how technology might help us should we, in concert with our student government, want to move forward.

Yes, of course, some meetings would be in order.  After all, we all spend a good part of our day on the same physical campus.  Nonetheless, the faculty, administration and students are occupied much of the day in separate activities and separate spaces.  So the committee working on this task might find it very useful to record meeting notes and develop drafts of a questionnaire using an online tool such as Google Docs.  These let committee members add their 2 cents whenever its convenient for them.  And anything they write is immediately available to the group.  Plus, you don’t have to deal with the confusion of several versions being exchanged among committee members and trying to make sure someone has the actual, final, complete version.

Once the developers agree to the questions that will be asked and the response scales, these can be easily deployed via simple online tools such as a Google Forms, SurveyMonkey, Zoomerang, or Qualtrics.

Whether or not you think it’s a great idea that high school students evaluate the effectiveness of their teachers, if you live in California it’s now a fact with which you’ve got to deal.  Check out these technology tools; they can really facilitate the process!

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Michael Simkins

Michael Simkins is Consulting Director of TICAL — the Technology Information Center for Administrative Leadership. Prior to that he was director of the Challenge 2000 Multimedia Project and also served as COO of Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network. He was an elementary schoolteacher for 17 years and an elementary principal for 9 years. He grew up in Manhattan Beach, California, when it was still a “sleepy beach town.”

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