How(EdReform)StuffWorks: Student surveys edition

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When a teacher wants to know how he's doing, to whom does he turn? Traditionally he has gone to colleagues--mentors, coaches or administration, but findings from The Gates Foundation's MET project indicate another group of experts with valuable feedback to share--students.

While some teachers are already in the practice of surveying their students for feedback on their own performance, the MET project made a splash with the news that students were excellent predictors of their teachers' effectiveness.  MET found that students with teachers whose Tripod (the student survey examined in the MET study) results were in the top 25 percent learned the equivalent of 4.6 months more of math instruction in a year than their peers with teachers scoring in the bottom 25 percent (ELA results were smaller, but still clearly indicated a relationship). The survey questions are simple, but have been carefully crafted to get at the heart of good teaching--and not at popularity, as many teachers fear when they first hear the words "student survey?":  

  • My teacher doesn't let people give up when the work gets hard.
  • My teacher gives us time to explain our ideas.
  • My classmates behave the way my teacher wants them to.


The MET project has now released a brief offering practical advice for schools and districts that want to use student surveys well. From the dry, but essential, examination of how to ensure accuracy of student rosters prior to administering the survey, to the clear call for making results meaningful by providing targeted support and development, the brief offers a nuts-and-bolts examination of what districts must consider when implementing student surveys.  

For teachers who are hungry for feedback and don't want to wait for a district-wide implementation of student surveys, we highly recommend a visit to MET's website, where the Tripod survey instruments are now available for download. 

Katie Moyer

Disclosure: We receive support from the Gates Foundation.