On Listening Carefully

Twice a year, I run a survey with my students to gain insight into their experience of my instructional practice. This isn’t the only time I seek feedback from them. I’m in the habit of asking for ‘pluses’ and ‘wishes’ every few months, as well as touching base with a few students at the classroom door to ask questions like, ‘Do you enjoy X activity?’, or, ‘Did you find Y helpful?’ The full survey, though, is a mash up of:

  1. Questions I’ve acquired/developed over the last ten years.
  2. Questions developed to align with our school’s version of domains two and three of Charlotte Danielson’s teacher evaluation rubric
  3. Some of the questions that came out of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s research into teacher appraisal

I developed essential agreements for our use of this survey in our own high school English department. Here is the Google form version of the survey itself, which you could copy if you wish.

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When I do the survey, I time it to coincide with student reports, so it becomes a moment of instructional quid pro quo. And, this year, I debriefed the survey with a small ‘focus’ group from each class. By seeking feedback on how I interpreted the students’ response, I noticed how it helped me to better understand and appreciate their perspective and experiences. One of the questions I found most valuable during this conversation was, ‘If I were to observe one colleague to help me become a better teacher, who would would it be?’ This made me think about how much more powerful professional development might be if we listened more systematically and more thoughtfully to the insights the students already have to offer us. They, after all, are the ones who have daily experience of our craft. So, I’m left wondering if high schools committed to on-going professional development could:

  1. Use teacher-tailored student voice surveys as a raison d’etre for collegial observations.
  2. Have teachers use student input to guide their own professional goal setting.
  3. Have teachers follow a student for a day once every year.

Does anyone already have experience of practices like these?

2 thoughts on “On Listening Carefully

  1. Hi Phil,

    Thanks for sharing–this also makes me wonder how students could play a part in shaping school-wide goals/themes?

    Another authentic way this type of feedback plays out is through student-led-conferencing. I know I’ve been like a broken record on that one–but it is so insightful to see what students WANT to showcase, how they feel they’ve progressed, and how much effort and engagement they have when discussing your course.

    Great to see you blogging again!


    1. Thanks Tricia. I think SLCs should be an important part of a culture in which students are given appropriate ownership of their learning. It’s ironic that sometimes they are most associated with primary and middle school, certainly here, and not high school, when you’d expect learners to need to be at their most independent.


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