Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Day 168: I Choose To Trust

State Testing: Day 14 of 14

We're done!!  Hooray!!  Just in time for finals!

At the encouragement of Dan Anderson (of the Oreo Cookie fame), and in line with my professional learning goals for feedback and growth, I decided to create a course evaluation form for my students.

I made it voluntary and anonymous, but I'll be encouraging my students to fill it out until the end of the year.  I posted it to the classroom pages so they don't need to remember the link and can access it from any computer or device.

I am truly hoping for some constructive feedback.  As I wrote the questions, I began to wonder how much I trusted my students and how much I really wanted to hear their opinions.  I think that some of the responses may be hard for me to read and absorb.  While I have my fans, I also have my critics, just like anyone.

I expect that the responses I get will fall into three categories:

  1. Genuine feedback: These students will seriously consider my questions, thinking back on the year and finding points of positivity and areas for growth.  The majority of these responses will come from diligent students who either like me or like the class.  (As of this writing, the two responses that have come in fall into this group.)
  2. Joke feedback: "This class would be better if we had more pizza parties!"  While I enjoy reading these responses, they aren't as helpful in my efforts to make my class better.
  3. Angry feedback:  These will be the students who are either trying to hurt my feelings or don't understand (intentionally or otherwise) that their criticisms aren't helpful.

It is this last group that concerns me and almost caused me to change my mind about asking.  When I introduce the survey to the classes, I spoke briefly about what "actionable feedback means."

"While you may be tempted to write things like 'the teacher is a huge jerk and ugly' I would prefer if you didn't.  That type of response, while valid and correct, doesn't give me a specific way to improve.  Plus, I already know both of those things."

To solicit feedback is to make oneself vulnerable.  I'm putting myself and my ego in the hands of my students in the hopes that they will help me to become a better teacher.  Having that feedback be valuable requires trust on both sides.

I think there are 4 possible outcomes:

1) Observers don't trust the observed:

2) Observed don't trust the observers:

3) Observers are ill-equipped to provide feedback:

4) Observers and observed trust:

I have been making a conscious effort this year to stay out of the first group.  I want my students to feel safe in my classroom, feeling respected by their classmates and by me.

I think the majority of my "bad" feedback will come from the second and third situation, either from students who don't know how to give actionable feedback, or will use it at a forum to anonymously vent their frustration and anger.  I am fairly solidly in that second group.

I don't trust them and it hurts me to say so.

My options at that point are to either scrap the whole thing, or close my eyes, take a deep breath and fall.

I am choosing to trust my students.

If you have not done so, please take a few minutes to fill out this survey. I would greatly appreciate it.

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