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learning or venting?

Posted By: Ruth Farmer on November 18, 2004
On the surface, RateMyTeachers is an excellent idea. Having taught secondary and university level students, I realize the value of student evaluations. Asking for evaluations while a course is in session allows teachers and students to discuss what is going well and what needs adjustment. With end-of-term evaluations in hand, a teacher may be able to understand how to enhance what worked well and apply it to upcoming courses.

Evaluations are limited if venting becomes the central point. In this instance, students forgo the opportunity to voice their valid concerns in respectful, meaningful language. Also, teachers often can't see beyond students' frustrations to deeper meanings. In these cases, no one learns.

Students often evaluate teachers in superficial ways unless they are taught how to do otherwise. Comments such as "She makes math fun and interesting" or "There is too much homework" are flattering or unnerving but don't provide enough context to be useful. Learning to assess and evaluate one's learning can become a part of the classroom. If RateMyTeachers is to enhance learning for educators and students, there must be opportunities for students to learn how to offer constructive and appropriate critique, and for teachers to learn how to interpret that critique.

Ruth Farmer
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 learning or venting? by Ruth Farmer on November 18, 2004
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