The Necessity of Revision: benefits of student/teacher review

By Erin Sofianek
Students reviewing teachers is a nice thought, one that’s being tried all over the country. But how effective or worthwhile is it really? Opinions on this matter cover all ends of the spectrum.
“Yeah, I guess I think it’s a good idea,” says Lizzie Rich, a sophomore at Bozeman High School. “It’s just that so few teachers actually let us review them,” she finishes, trailing off to imply the difficulty of judging something so uncommon.
Many studies have been done on the subject and teachers everywhere have different justifications for why they do or don’t allow students to give them feedback. One of the most common issues that is brought up by those against the idea is that teaching could turn into a popularity contest if there was too much value placed on student reviews.
“A lot of kids just think that class should be fun with no homework,” states Rich.
Allison Reinhardt, also a sophomore at Bozeman High School, agrees with Rich, saying, “It’s hard for students to be objective about the value of a teacher’s style, especially if that teacher expects a lot from her students.”
A study conducted by the University of California-Berkeley-showed that students who are more successful in a class are more likely to score a teacher higher. On one hand, this is positive because it shows the ability of a student to learn from a teacher. However, this could just as easily be accomplished by checking the students’ grades, as many schools do.
On the other hand, this system makes it very easy for a vindictive student who is doing poorly in the class to score the teacher down purely due to a sense of irritation with the teacher.
Because of these issues, many teachers simply don’t bother to try getting their students to review them. Bias is something that happens easily for reasons that have little to do with actual teaching.
Despite all of the issues and possible negative side effects that come with students being able to review teachers, many believe that it is a positive idea.
It is common knowledge that the majority of the student population at any school spends an exorbitant amount of time complaining about, or discussing their various teachers – much to the annoyance of said teachers.
“If students spent half as much time studying as they did complaining, they’d all be getting straight A’s,” says AP Biology teacher, Karen Downes.
But it’s true: students like to complain, and the majority of students fail to take initiative to change what they have issues with.
“I guess it’s partly fear of getting on our teacher’s bad side that keeps us from speaking up when we have a problem with a teaching style,” affirms Emily Vandervelde, also a Bozeman High School student.
And this is precisely the reason that teacher reviews have value. It gives students a chance to express their concerns in a civil and controlled environment, without fearing backlash from the teacher.
“I ask my students for feedback on my teaching every semester or year. I think it helps me grow and improve as a teacher,” says Walker Asserson, a World Geography teacher.
Often times a teacher can pick up on negative vibes from students, but genuinely have no idea what the problem is.
Asserson admits that at times it might be difficult to hear negative reviews but at the same time, “students seem to enjoy it and teachers can learn from listening to their students,” he says.
“If kids are being taught a way they want to be,” says Rich, “they seem to be more likely to take some initiative and comprehend the material.”
Asserson also says that he feels these reviews are a valuable way for teachers to learn and grow to become better teachers.
As Rich said, “I think there are pros and cons to the issue either way, but honestly I think it’s something worthwhile overall.”
There will always be controversy on this subject, people vehemently supporting as well as opposing the idea, but the bottom line is there is no way to truly know the value if it isn’t attempted.

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