Cold, Hard Numbers: An Introduction to My Year-End Reflection


Whether we admit it or not, people love watching other people make fools of themselves. Our delight is compounded when the subject is unaware of their suffering.This is what makes American Idol auditions so sickeningly funny; the off-key notes, ecstatic expressions, and wild gesticulations of willing participants are wrapped in a warm blanket of obliviousness to how ridiculous they look. Some of these poor mules respond by getting in on the joke and rising above it – take William Hung, for example, who had his 15 minutes of fame and maybe a few more. But we teachers don’t have the luxury of lampooning our own incompetence. Our effectiveness depends on becoming aware of our shortcomings and fixing them.

In a bid to avoid such ignominy, then, I had all six of my classes fill out a year-end survey that I created using Google Docs. My goal: to assess the effectiveness of a) my technology use, b) instructional practices, and c) classroom environment. Over the next week or two I’ll be analyzing that data and sharing the results here.

A few caveats:

  1. I’m aware that this is not a statistically valid analysis. While I got most of my students (sample size = 84), I don’t have the background in stats nor the resources to control for variables that might help me make decisions as to causality. So I’ll be discussing a lot of correlation and making educated, though anecdotal, guesses to explain the results.
  2. This is the first year that I’ve given this particular survey, and I’m the only teacher at school who gave it (since I made it up myself). So I lack a quantitative measure of change over time, as well as a measure against the efficacy of other teachers. For example (and I’m giving away the big finale here), my students rated the overall efficacy of my class at 8.23 on a scale of 1-10. But that doesn’t mean I’m in the 82nd percentile; it doesn’t make me a B- teacher. Maybe most teachers would score a 9 or higher, and I’m sub-par. Or maybe other teachers would score in the 7-7.5 range, and I’m a rockstar. The point is that my survey doesn’t help me quantitatively define my develpment over time or give me a context in which to judge my overall efficacy compared to other teachers.
  3. The results represent the students’ perceptions about my instruction, so you should trust the results to the extent that you trust adolescents’ judgements about what education is and should be. I don’t┬ámean to imply that this makes them invalid, but rather it should be part of other external assessments of a teacher’s efficacy.

External links:

Mr. Kelsey’s End of Year Evaluation

William Hung on Wikipedia

William Hung’s Official Website

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