How useful are student surveys. Quite useful, according to preliminary results released on Friday from a $45 million research project and quoted in a New York Times article by Sam Dillon.
Teachers whose students described them as skillful at maintaining classroom order, at focusing their instruction and at helping their charges learn from their mistakes are often the same teachers whose students learn the most in the course of a year, as measured by gains on standardized test scores, according to a progress report on the research.
Financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the two-year project involves scores of social scientists and some 3,000 teachers and their students in seven areas. The questionnaires were developed by Ronald Ferguson, a Harvard researcher who has been refining student surveys for more than a decade. “Kids know effective teaching when they experience it,” he said.
But how will the results be used?
If we are really going to “put students first”, as I have suggested in an earlier post about reinventing education, then incorporating student feedback should be considered as one of the practices to be adopted.
However how the results are handled is going to be critical. If the results are used as a weapon to control and punish teachers rather than as a tool to help those teachers who want to improve to enhance their performance, then the use of the surveys would likely make things worse.
If the reform of education is to succeed, the administrators must become enablers of improved performance, not controllers.
As in the management sphere, the reinvention of education will not come by tools alone. It also requires a change in heart.
Read the full article here.