Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

More Great Stuff- Word Substitution II

by AJ

Yet another gem from the interview on Tom Peters.com ("student" substituted for "customer", "teacher" for "employee"):

We decided to calibrate based on a set of questions, both for students and for teachers. One of them, for example, was, "I often exceed students' expectations."

Then we'll ask a student to give a value to the statement, "I often have my expectations exceeded." The interesting thing—and this is a consistent result that we've seen in all the studies—is that about 95 or 96 percent of the teachers claim they exceed student expectations. Yet, on average, only about 30 percent of the students agree with the same statement.

Obviously there are some serious gaps between what the teachers believe they deliver, versus what the students actually experience. And when you don't link those two, you will never know the truth about how well you're executing.

Ouch! Guilty as charged. Ive always suspected this.

Why? Because as a student (from Middle school on up through grad school) I have generally been very dissatisfied with my teachers and schools. The vast majority have been boring, irrelevant,... and sometimes, downright painful. Some have been humiliating. Others just seemed pointless. Yet those teachers, Im sure, thought they were doing a great job.

Im not so clueless as to imagine Im immune from this phenomenon. I know damn well that students are far less impressed with my "innovative" ideas than I am.

Which is why I continue to wrack my brain for better feedback mechanisms. Standard "teacher evaluations" are no good. They are usually vague. Plus, the teacher usually gets them after the class is long over. Many students avoid being overly critical even if they were not happy (this is especially true in Asia).

So how do we find out just how bad we are... and how we can overhaul the student's experience? Im not quite sure. One solution Ive discovered this semester... surrender more power, build rapport, then initiate discussions (ie. "The Ideal English Class" discussion).

I used to think anonymous forms and blog comments were the way to go... but I dont think so now. Too vague. Too impersonal. What we need are honest conversations. This might be with the teacher... or it might mean bringing in an outsider... preferably one with good communication skills with no official ties to the school.

But the best way is to build a trusting relationship with the students so that they'll feel comfortable airing their feelings. Again, not an easy task. But an essential one.