This was the first year I gave course evaluations. I probably chose this year because it was a pretty good one and I figured I’d receive mostly positive marks. Lame, right, but not as bad as it sounds.
Fact is, I wobbled out of my first two years, hitting my door’s crash-bar shoulder-first, staggering out into the sun with a long list of Things Not To Mess Up Next Year underarm.
I had the same wobbly feeling this last spring but a much shorter list. I needed student contributions so I adapted a college course survey for high school math and passed it out. I had a student collect the completed surveys and put them in an envelope. I told my students they should keep their anonymity and that I wouldn’t check ‘em, anyway, until after grades froze. And I didn’t.
Here’s the survey in pdf.
Every question ran along the Likert scale from Strongly Disagree (1) to Strongly Agree (5). Here are the results, a little commentary, and full disclosure.
- I felt like a strong math student at the start of the year.
- I feel like a strong math student now.
[Really couldn't be more thrilled with the Algebra numbers here: a bunch of kids scared by math at one end of the year and a mostly unrecognizable bunch at the other end capable of expressing questions and solving problems, all with a minimum of anxiety.]
- I enjoyed math at the start of the year.
- I enjoy math now.
[Really didn't do much with Geometry, did I? Ugh. Kind of a wash-out. ¶ Glad a few more Algebra kids like math than before but those negative numbers cut me deep.]
- The teacher was effective.
- The teacher was enthusiastic about math.
[I may bring this one back in a few years but I'm content, for now, that enthusiasm levels were appropriately high. (A couple of kids added boxes past Strongly Agree.)]
- The teacher showed genuine interest in students’ learning.
[I can't bring myself to reject those two dissenting kids as outliers. This matters. Not beating myself up or anything but I didn't expect this at all.]
- The teacher responded when I asked for individual help.
- What about this class would you change for future students?
- nothing 
- the one minute board 
- inappropriate, irrelevant, or otherwise redacted 
- less classwork 
- go slower 
- more group projects 
- make tests worth less 
- get a clock 
- more time in class to make up tests
- sassyness [sic]
- less jokes
- no openers
- more individual help
- keep the classroom cooler
- get rid of platonic solids
- the classroom smell
- cleaner room
- a faster computer
- more homework so when we go home we don’t forget what we learned
- make a list available of future work we can turn in early
- make the room look less like a prison
- don’t give referrals the last week of school
- make sure no one gets lost
- don’t take away cellphones
[Noted and rejected.]
[Noted and rejected.]
[The line-up of suspects is pretty short for this response.]
- What about this class would you keep for future students?
- everything 
- show and tell 
- basketball 
- the testing system 
- donut parties 
- overhead thing 
- meyer 
- treasure hunts 
- games 
- graphing stories 
- openers 
- fake or legit 
- final skip option for those who passed all their concepts
- miscellaneous question on opener
- teaching style
- the funness [sic] of the class
- how we didn’t use the book
[If you aren't playing basketball we should probably talk about this.]
[Is this response sarcastic?]
[This question was too vague.]
The experience was valuable overall, cathartic for students, informative for me. Next year I’m going to lose the neutral ground and force students to take an agree/disagree stand on things. I’m going to break down the “effective teacher” question (which is stupid-vague in hindsight) into specific probes: “The openers were useful for me,” “the classwork was useful for me,” etc.
The free response questions were the most valuable so I may tack on the prompt, “Tell future students how they can be successful in this class.” Many of these suggestions were courtesy Robert-From-The-Comments, who occasionally drops by my classroom to toss me New Teacher Project advice for $fr.ee.