Current Issue

The Role of Course and Teacher Evaluation in the Language Classroom

June 2024

We all want to become better teachers, but how can we measure our growth as educators? Evaluations, if done well, can be a useful tool for both teachers and schools to gauge the effectiveness of teaching. In this issue, we’ll take a closer look at what makes evaluations valuable, and how best to go about designing evaluations for different contexts and situations. 

“A teacher’s job is to take a bunch of live wires and see that they are well-grounded.” — Darwin D. Martin

APA reference for this issue

(author). (2024). (article title, sentence case). MindBrainEd Think Tanks: The Role of Course and Teacher Evaluation in the Language Classroom, 10(6), (pages).

Watch before you read...

What is “good” teaching? We pose this question in the Think Tanks a lot, at least implicitly. Our authors often write on what teachers can do to create the conditions for more effective learning.  This month we’re peering through our magnifying glass to examine the ways we judge teachers and their teaching. In the Main podcast episode, Betsy Barre gives an overview on the research done on course evaluation. In the More podcast episode, Beate Brunow and Shawn Simonson discuss new frameworks at their universities that are used not only to evaluate teaching more fairly but also to engender a growth mindset in instructors. Then, Heather Kretschmer introduces the issue.

In the Think Tank, Curtis Kelly describes problematic aspects of course evaluations and details an approach to collecting information on teachers and teaching that serves the needs of different stakeholders. Next, Christine Winskowski delves into different aspects of course evaluations and explains how teachers can develop their own course-specific questionnaires. Finally, Jana Kamenická highlights the advantages young teachers bring to the classroom and drives home this message with the touching story of one young teacher.

In the Plus section, we spotlight Think Tank editor, Afon (Mohammad) Khari.

Intentional Teaching: Assessing Teaching

with Beate Brunow and Shawn Simonson

Our Thoughts on Evaluation

Perceptions of Teaching and Teachers Heather Kretschmer

Imagine we lived in a parallel universe where the conditions on Mars allowed life to emerge and flourish. Suspend reality for a moment to travel with me to this alternate reality . . . 

Both Earth and Mars boast intelligent species who have begun to visit each other’s planets. As a native Earthling, you are lucky enough to have been selected to participate in one of the first Martian-Earth exchange programs. For human participants, part of the exchange involves a week-long Martian language crash course in which a Martian instructor teams up with a human instructor.

Think Tank Articles

Upgrading the Class Evaluation Questionnaire System Curtis Kelly

To quote a student I once had: “Class evaluations suck!” I am not sure he is right, but it is something we should find out about.  At 45 minutes per questionnaire from the university administration like the one shown here, my 300 Japanese students used up 13,500 hours of potential learning time per semester, or 500,000 hours (equal to 56 years) for the entire student body, and for the whole country…a couple millennia. There is no room for class evaluations that suck!

Students’ Course Evaluations: From Design Problems to Genuine Responses Christine Winskowski

You know the ritual: You administer the institution’s course evaluation forms with 10-15 items (statements or questions, like “The teacher was enthusiastic”) and often 5 or 6 responses (from “1 – strongly agree” to “5 – strongly disagree”). A few days later, the completed forms are returned.

Do you feel anticipation? Trepidation? Do you ever wonder…why? (“Why did these people put a 2 or 3?)

Passing the Torch: When Young Teachers Make a Difference Jana Kamenická

I work with experienced, older teachers, and I am impressed by their dedication to this profession. Their wisdom, experience, and patience enrich us, the younger generation of educators, every day.

I see their efforts to impart knowledge and shape the minds of young people as a gift that builds understanding and compassion in a world full of change. The kindness and care they show their learners and young colleagues make them not only better learners or educators but also better people. I feel their influence spreads far beyond the school classroom and staffroom—far and wide into the world. I hope to be like that someday, and having taught for ten years, I am hopefully getting closer. But when I think back to my beginning as a teacher, I feel a little awkward.

Think Tank Plus

Editor's Spotlight: Afon Think Tank Team

Editors’ note: We thought this would be a good time to tell you who we are. Not counting our inner stable contributors, this magazine has a staff of seven, living all over the world, who gather at Think Tank Towers in Waikiki every month to produce this magazine. The MindBrainEd Think Tanks are not funded, nor are the contributors or editors paid, so they produce this magazine out of love for language teachers and students. 

Call for Contributions: Ideas and Articles Think Tank Staff

Become a Think Tank star! Here are some of the future issue topics we are thinking about. Would you, or anyone you know, like to write about any of these? Or is there another topic you’d like to recommend? Do you have any suggestions for lead-in, or just plain interesting, videos? How about writing a book review? Or sending us a story about your experiences? Contact us.

Going Deeper

In this Intentional Teaching podcast episode, host Derek Bruff talks with Aimee Fleming and Maren Rice from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University about a Students as Partners program at their institution. In this program, instructor-student pairs are formed, in which the student is currently taking one of the instructor’s courses. As the course progresses, the instructor and student work together to improve the design and implementation of that course. This program is a good example of how student feedback can positively shape the learning experience of a cohort in an ongoing course.

Students as Partners

with Aimee Fleming and Maren Rice

The MindBrained Think Tanks+

is produced by the Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT) Mind, Brain, and Education Special Interest Group (BRAIN SIG). Kyoto, Japan. (ISSN 2434-1002)

Editorial Staff

Stephen M. Ryan      Curtis H. Kelly      Julia Daley       Afon (Mohammad) Khari

Heather Kretschmer       Matt Ehlers        Marc Helgesen         Nicky De Proost



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