Student Evaluation of Teachers
Teachers in training are often evaluated by the students they are instructing, and whether or not it is considered an effective practice. Different viewpoints exist about the validity of having students evaluate student teachers and whether student ratings should be used, as well as the role the supervising teacher plays in the student evaluation process. Student evaluation of instruction has been used since the 1920s when it was first used in the nation's colleges and universities. Even after all these years, “student evaluation of teacher performance is considered one of the most controversial techniques used to try to identify teacher effectiveness” (Coburn, 1984, ¶ 1).
Keywords Correlation; Formative Evaluation; Reliability; Summative Evaluation; Validity
Student evaluation of instruction has been used since the 1920s when it was first used in the nation's colleges and universities (D'Apolloina & Abrami, 1997, as cited in Baldwin & Blattner, 2003). Even after all these years, student evaluation of teacher performance is considered one of the most controversial techniques used to determine the effectiveness of teachers (Coburn, 1984).
Student evaluation of teachers is also known as student rating. The advantage of using students to evaluate their instructors is that “students are the main source of information about the learning environment” in which they are immersed (Coburn, 1984, ¶ 4.1). Students are also in the best position to provide information about their instructor's ability to motivate them to learn and report about the instructor's level of rapport as well as how effectively the teacher communicates with them. Students can also be good assessors of the value and adequacy of the course content, their teacher's way of instructing, their textbooks, the homework they are given, and their own general interest in learning course content. Some also contend that the use of student evaluations of their teachers can help facilitate an easy exchange of information between students and their teacher. This, in turn, may prompt additional student participation in the teaching-learning process and a higher level of instruction. Student evaluations of their instructors may also motivate instructors and teacher evaluators in such a way that would promote the effective teaching, making it more recognized and rewarded (Aleamoni, 1981, as cited in Coburn, 1984).
There are many reasons for evaluating student teachers in a kindergarten through twelfth grade setting. Most teacher education programs state what criteria student teachers will need to enter the teaching profession, and evaluations can inform them about what skills they still need to work on and what skills they have mastered (Barrett, 1986). Student teacher evaluation can also be used for program improvement (Ashburn & Fisher, 1984, as cited in Barrett, 1986). For example, a teacher education program requires that student teachers demonstrate the ability to plan instructional units. If student teacher evaluations show that most student teachers are not doing this effectively or correctly, then the school can adjust its program accordingly and use future evaluations as a gauge of whether or not they have improved their instructional practices (Barrett, 1986).
While there may be many good reasons to consider using students to evaluate teachers, instructors may be concerned about the use of such student ratings. They may feel that “students lack the maturity and expertise to make judgments about course content, instructor style, and instructor effectiveness” (Coburn, 1984, ¶ 9.1). There may also be cause for concern that students' ratings are more a measure of the instructor's popularity rather than their ability to teach. In addition, many rating forms have been determined to be both unreliable and invalid, and there is always the danger that an inappropriate evaluation form will be selected as the rating instrument. There have also been other variables that have nothing to do with instructors or their effectiveness and ability to teach that have been shown to affect student ratings of their instructor. These variables include the grades students have received in class from the instructor and the size of the class (Coburn, 1984).
For many years, there have been surveys designed to allow students to assess different aspects of student teachers' instructional abilities (Journal of Teacher Education, 1964; Journal of Educational Psychology, 1969; Meighan, 1974; Veldman & Peck, 1963, as cited in Perl, 1978). As the use of student evaluation of teacher instruction becomes more popular, it is important to try to determine how dependable the responses of students are when they evaluate a student teacher. Some believe that student responses may be dependable (Perl, 1978). Evans (1951, as cited in Perl, 1978) believed that using students as observers of teachers is a good thing because students have an advantage in that they see their teacher regularly over a long period of time and know more than an outside evaluator. The same thing could be true of students' observations of their student teachers because students should have the best opportunity to see what student teachers can and cannot do, as well as how the student teacher reacts in different types of situations (Perl, 1978).
A study was designed to determine whether there are qualities or practices of student teachers that can be dependably judged by the students they teach (Perl, 1978). To ascertain whether or not this is true, high school students' ratings of their student teachers were compared to the ratings of supervising teachers. Supervising teachers were selected to be the comparison group because, like the students, they see the student teachers regularly over a long period of time. The studies indicated that students' evaluation of student teachers seemed to correlate with supervising teachers only on certain factors. One possible reason for this is that students and supervising teachers view student teachers from different perspectives.
An example of this would be if supervising teachers were asked how well student teachers develop lesson plans. Supervising teachers may not rate the student teachers very high because they see the planning process the student teachers go through and find it inadequate or lacking. If the students of the student teachers were asked the same question, their response may be much more positive because all they see is what goes on in the classroom, and to them, the student teacher seems to have their lessons well organized and prepared. The students and the supervising teachers could both be correct in their assessment of the student teacher's ability to develop lesson plans, but they are really answering different questions (Perl, 1978).
There is evidence available that suggests there is significant correlation between students and supervising teachers in their evaluation of student teachers' control of the classroom, their personality in relating to their students, and the assistance they give students to help them understand what is learned. Students and supervising teachers do not seem to agree, however, on their evaluation of the variety of learning activities student teachers use (Perl, 1978). This leads to the conclusion that there are some cases in which students can provide dependable information about the characteristics of their student teachers (Veldman & Peck, 1963; Meighan, 1974, as cited in Perl, 1978) and other cases when they cannot.
Evaluation Form Validity
There can be concern about “the validity of student ratings. Student ratings become invalid if the rating form used is not the correct form to collect the specific data required. Rating forms vary widely” (Scriven, 1995, ¶ 6). They can be created by the students, the cooperating teacher, the student's advisor, the program, or even by the student teacher. Thus, it is difficult to say that student ratings can be a good indicator of learning gains or the student teacher's performance, because not all forms are the same, and one cannot assume that there is any commonality to all student teacher ratings (Scriven, 1995).
Another potential issue “with using rating forms for summative teacher evaluations is that a lot of them ask the wrong overall questions” (Scriven, 1995, ¶ 3). Some examples of the common types of subjective, and therefore incorrect, questions that are asked on teacher evaluation forms:
• Questions that ask students to compare the...
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