The opinion that students should be able to evaluate their teachers, just as well as teachers grade students, is quite popular. In 2013, researchers at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation conducted a project – Measures for Effective Teaching, which included students’ ratings of their teachers alongside with student performance as indicators of teaching effectiveness. Students’ grading was meant to play a significant part in the formative assessment. Nonetheless, three years later, there is still a number of obstacles which delay implementation of this approach in schools around the country.
While students’ feedback about their mentors is crucial for formative assessment of pedagogues, it is questionable that pupils can give the adequate evaluation of their mentors’ professional capacities. For a start, children, especially the younger ones, don’t have sufficient knowledge about pedagogy and teaching. Thus, they cannot properly establish whether the methods used in teaching them are efficient and to what extent. Secondly, students, especially adolescents, are well-known for their constant effort to undermine any authority. Teachers could just get into hot water with this kind of assessment. Thirdly, students can use evaluation of their teachers as a way to get back at the latter for their own bad grades by grading mentors poorly. All these concerns are related to the existing doubts regarding students’ competency to perform ample evaluation.
On the other hand, those who are convinced that students lack adroitness to perform teachers’ grading, still mostly believe in the need of such. Some argue that information provided by students should not be included in the overall rating of the teacher’s, but used to provide teachers with advice on improving their overall performance. Others say that grades given by students should be used at a teacher’s sole discretion, so that he or she becomes aware of his or her drawbacks. It could also set the direction for a teacher’s further professional and personal development.
After considering all of the above, it becomes clear that a compromise is needed. While, on one hand, not every student is competent enough to grade professional educators, on the other one, students could be the only reliable source of information about their instructors’ teaching style and overall efficiency. Therefore, no doubt that students could and should evaluate their teachers, with some precautions taken by those who are to develop evaluation sheets. For example, age of pupils should be well considered. While preschool children might grade teachers with sad and smiley faces, teenagers can answer complex questions and provide extensive argumentative answers.
When it comes down to school, students should be given an opportunity to play an active and even decisive role in their own education. Most importantly, they should be able to assess their teachers just like their educators do. Students of all grades are capable of providing sufficient feedback on different aspects of teaching, such as their teacher’s personality, his or her teaching style, or quality of communication with pupils. Of course, clarity of the course materials provided by the teacher and clarity of the instructions will play a significant role in understanding of the course by young people, not to mention their further performance. Education should be considered as a dialog between those who teach and those who actively accept the knowledge and utilize it afterwards.