Should students assess teachers?

Graduating Teacher Standard 5.a

Graduating teachers systematically and critically engage with evidence to reflect on and refine their practice.

Every week or so I am supposed to have my teaching assessed by my associate teacher against the Graduating Teacher Standards. This process is part of making sure that I’m competent before I’m let loose on a class of kids (relatively) unsupervised.

My associate teacher has decided to let the students give some feedback into my assessment. Now I should preface my remarks by saying that this school is one that takes student voice seriously. There are regular surveys which gauge student feedback so I am operating in a context where student voice is valued. I should also say that this group of Year 8 (12 year old) students are a thoughtful and highly intelligent bunch who regularly give highly insightful feedback and feed-forward in class.

When I’ve mentioned to people that my students are helping to give I’ve had a few raised eyebrows in response, some of which have come from qualified teachers. I can see why some people would be uncomfortable with the process, kids can be frighteningly honest at times and you’d be surprised what they pick up.

The students know which subjects their teacher doesn’t like to teach because they notice the lack of time the teacher puts into the subjects.

The students know which teachers are marking time and which ones have passion for learning.

The students know that ‘fun’ doesn’t always mean learning but learning should be fun.

Maybe some teachers don’t want to hear at the kids have to say because they know that they won’t like what they hear. But really shouldn’t the kids be at the centre of teaching and learning? Hearing uncomfortable things now is far better than spending years clinging to bad practices. I have no compunction in saying right now I’m probably a bad teacher, I just don’t have the knowledge and experience to be awesome. But everyday I’m learning things from watching and doing, I feel like I’ve learned more in the last 3 weeks in school than I did in the past 2 months slogging away on the books. However I realize that this is an ongoing process and when I feel like I know everything there is to know then its time to retire.

But if teaching and learning should be an ongoing conversation, then surely teachers need to keep tweaking and updating their practice. While having knowledge of what makes effective practice from the ‘experts’ is important, you’ve got 30 or so (little) experts that could give you feedback on your teaching. But more than anything, the kids should be at the heart of any teacher’s practice. Not asking how you could do things differently or what things the learners enjoy seems at odds with that idea.

So to any practicing teacher out there who aren’t already, I encourage you to start asking questions about your practice, you might be pleasantly surprised to hear the answers.

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