Take Student Complaints With Caution

Education Week:

How much weight should be given to student complaints about their teachers? I ask that question because the evaluation of teachers in the years ahead is expected to include input from students in addition to input from principals, peers and parents (“Seeking Aid, School Districts Change Teacher Evaluations,” The New York Times, Oct. 16). I welcome the change. But I have reservations about placing inordinate reliance on student comments.

Although students spend considerable face time with teachers, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are able to judge their teachers fairly. Take the most familiar complaint that a teacher is boring. A study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science found that boredom often arises from stress (“Studies Link Students’ Boredom to Stress, Education Week, Oct. 10). If so, then teachers are likely to be downgraded when they are not always to blame.

When I was teaching, the first period of the day frequently consisted of students who happened to come from extremely disadvantaged backgrounds. The roster indicated that many of them lived in one-parent homes. No matter how hard I tried to make the material interesting, they showed the classic signs of boredom. If they had been asked to rate my instruction, I’m quite certain they would have given me a low grade. Yet I was not responsible for the stress they were feeling because of their personal lives outside the classroom.

Read the whole story: Education Week

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