Kate Stickley's Master's Thesis Project - LIT REVIEW



SECTION I: Examining Key Issues

SECTION II: Re-Constructing the Issues

SECTION III: Conclusions, Possibilities, Challenges, and Topics for Further Investigation

SECTION I: Examining Key Issues

The first sections is concerned with a review of key issues in elementary education regarding student voice and student feedback.

Are Student Feedback and Student Voice valid indicators of teacher performance?

            Student feedback and student voice are key issues in education today and the research is "extensive and complex" (Cashin, 1995, p. 1) There are multiple forms of student evaluations, student critiques, student ratings and student feedbacks systems and frameworks. There are also many types (Papay, 2012) and purposes of SETs (Student Evaluations of Teaching) teacher evaluations and uses for student feedback and student voice are widely varied reflecting the "multidimensionality of teaching." (Marsh & Roche, 1997)

Criticisms and Concerns

            Critics of using student feedback and student voice argue that student evaluations will be no more than popularity contests (Tomasco, 1980); others critics fear that students will be motivated to complete their student feedback with the expectation that it will impact their grades which would result in bias (Cashin, 1995) while a final criticism is concerned that by tying personnel decisions to student ratings, the result will be that teacher will lower their standards and grades will be inflated to get more positive student responses (Moore & Kuol, 2005)

Validity and Reliability

            Despite these criticisms and concerns, or "myths" as they have been termed (Aleamoni, 1998), it is generally agreed that student reporting is a valid form of data collection further, there is evidence that student feedback can be more reliable that other forms of data such as peer review, administrative review etc. (Cashin, 1995 Feldman, 1997, Theall & Franklin, 2001) Both long term (Hoban & Hastings, 2006) and short term (MET Project, 2012) research indicate that the use of student feedback and student evaluations leads to increased student engagement and promotes more reflective teaching practices. (Brantlinger, 1994, Hoban & Hastings, 2006, MET Project, 2012) The research also indicates that using student feedback and student voice improves both student and teacher performance. (Brantlinger, 1994, Hoban & Hastings, 2006, MET Project, 2012)

Use of Student Feedback and Student Voice in Elementary Education?

            Research shows that paying attention to student voice is effective not only as a tool for teacher evaluation but as an opportunity for teacher professional development. (Cashin, 1995, Hoban & Hastings, 2006, Reay, 2006)

Origins in Post Secondary Education

            It is interesting to note that the use of student feedback and student voice originated in post secondary education where, student rating was the primary if not the only evaluation being used to evaluate teacher's (Aleamoni, 1998) In elementary, education, however, use of student feedback is only now being considered as a possibly valid assessment tool and many educators are resistant to having student feedback count in pay and performance ratings for elementary school teachers. (Ripley, 2012) Part of this resistance comes from the fact that student evaluations are being given to children as young as kindergarten. (Butrymowicz, 2012, MET Project, 2012)

Uses in Elementary Education

            In contemporary education children are often seen as stakeholders; end users customers. (Goe, Bell & Little, 2008, Kaster, 2012) On the one hand, this can be seen as an act of inclusion, whereby students are representative in the educational process and therefore imbued with the rights and responsibilities as all other stakeholders. (Ripley, 2012) On the other hand, this can be seen as an attempt to undermine public education and public teachers by decentralizing educational power structures and professional organizations in an attempt to privatize, and thus commoditize education. (Cochran-Smith, 2009)

Tying Student Feedback to Elementary School Teacher Ratings

            Attempts are being made to provide empirical evidence tying high rates of student satisfaction to higher rated teacher.(MET Project, 2012) There is increased pressure on schools and school districts to adopt market based teaching practices and standardization tools to make the delivery of education more efficient and expedient. (Layton, 2012) At the same time, the climate of high stakes testing is viewed by some to be more of a measurement of how well students perform on standardized test than true reflection of knowledge, assessment of acquired learning and appreciation for student experience. (Fielding & Bragg, 2003, Reay, 2006)

Punishment or Professional Development

            One of the main problems identified with using student feedback and student voice in pedagogical practices is that the ratings may being used as a punitive measure. This causes teachers to be resentful and resistant to their use. (Ripley, 2012) Teachers fear they will be that students lack maturity to make that their reporting will be biased. (Butrymowicz, 2012) Another issue raised is that teachers don't really understand how to use student feedback and student voice (Cook Sather, 2006) in a constructive and democratic manner (Pryor & Pryor, 2005) and very few school systems have the resources to invest in training and development for non-data driven factors. (Layton, 2012)

Economics and Politics

            Recent political and economic factors have contributed to the empowerment of students. A strong indication that student feedback and student voice will become even more of a key issue in education, is the recent establishment of organizations by students, and for students which are able to flourish in an era of social networking. (Otto, Sanford & Ross, 2008, Stu Voice, 2012) 

Advancements in Technology

            Advancements in technology have made it possible for student voice to have many more expressions than in the past and even on-line rating system appear to have validity. (Otto, Sanford & Ross, 2008) Recently, students have begun to self-organize and this is both an indication of the trend of self - empowerment among younger generations as well as a reflection of students reactions to their environment as well as an expression of how students see themselves in contemporary society. (Stu Voice, 2012)