Should school students “be able to rate teachers”?

An article in the Telegraph  has quoted one leading headmaster as saying that students “should be able to rate teachers.”

With things such as automatic progression between pay levels disappearing, and schools having greater freedom setting them appropriate to teaching jobs versus incoming teachers’ levels, the path to performace-related pay has been cleared.

To date, the performance measurements were set by the school, head of departments and OfSted. Teachers were observed by their superiors during lessons and categorised according to the performance levels set for teaching. Points for development were based on these observations. Equally, teachers had targets set based on the abilities of their students. CAT scores, as well as other assessments throughout the life of a student – from SATs to GCSE scores – were used to base predicted grades on that which the teachers had to attain.

Clearly, this was a very clinical way of assessing teachers, based solely on facts and figures. It also meant that the only people assessing the teacher were other – more senior – teachers. The idea of teaching to results was born. However, exams results can say more about the culture of a school than how effective an individual teacher is. Moreover, the very people whose life depended to some extent on the teacher’s ability and performance – the students- had no say. In some schools a commitee of students when hiring new teachers has been practice, but that is not the norm. It also does not allow students to voice their opinion once the teacher is in-situ. Now some headteachers believe that only students can really help to assess the ability of individual teachers, and they have started anonymous online questionnaires that inform performance assessments.

Obviously students have their own opinions of teachers. However, the question is whether they should be able to rate them. We could take this one step further and ask if all students should be able to rate their teachers. Whilst the older ones will be aware of how well a teacher explains their subject to them, supports their learning throughout and what grades students achieve taught by a teacher, younger ones will perhaps be less analytical. Factors such as the likes and dislikes of a student for a certain subject will be important. As will whether or not they like the person. However, does this really qualify them to rate a teacher with regards to their ability? Moreover, will each school develop a set of criteria to judge teachers on? And will this be devised with students? Should this be shared between schools? Still another question is, how much weight should be attached to these assessments? And what is their purpose? Should they inform the teacher and the person appraising or should they be tight to monetary gains? The list goes on.

It is clearly encouraging to integrate the views of those who are on the receiving end of teaching. However, it needs to be implemented carefully and may not be useful for all schools and all school ages. Moreover what is done with the collected information needs to be carefully considered. So it remains questionable whether it should be made compulsory by the government or not.

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