Student teaching quality assessment (STQA) has kicked off at HSE, in addition to the tenth annual Best Teacher Award vote. Since 2010, every year, students have voted for the teachers whom they considered the best among those with whom they took courses over the current academic year.
Over the last five years, students have cast their votes via LMS for the best teachers, after the standard STQA procedure finished in the fourth module. We have talked to teachers who have won the vote many times and used to participate in the vote when they were students themselves.
I always took the best teacher vote very seriously and believed it was my responsibility to go and vote for the teachers I liked. So, I cannot say that my attitude to the vote changed when I became a candidate rather than the voter. Sometimes, the choice was simple, but sometimes, I had to spend some time thinking who out of my favourite teachers should get my vote. Almost any teacher at HSE University deserves to be named the best, so it was incredibly nice when students voted for me.
The best teacher vote is a very important feedback tool. I have heard discussions about the criteria used by students when they choose the ‘best’ teachers: whether these teachers are really ‘the best’, or rather, ‘most appreciated’, ‘most remembered’ etc. Indeed, the term ‘best’ is very expressive and emotionally charged. For example, I don’t consider myself to be the best teacher, because I’m still far behind my more experienced colleagues. But still, such feedback provides a perspective that is different from STQA, and I believe, it is important that students have the opportunity not only to rationally assess their course and teacher as part of STQA, but to express their impressions in the vote for the best teacher.
Without a doubt, these teaching assessments are essential for me. Of course, I can’t say that they are more important than the interested eyes in class, the insightful questions about the course I receive via Telegram late at night, or requests for advice on how to better implement the analysis described in a graduation thesis years ago, but it would be harder to teach without these kinds of assessments. The work of a teacher requires a high level of emotional commitment, and the vote becomes an excellent opportunity to understand that it is all worth it, even if winning came with no cash prize (which is, of course, important, too). A victory in the competition is particularly significant for younger teachers, who are only beginning to teach classes at the university and often feel unconfident (I know this from my own experience) – but if students vote for you, this means you are doing it right!
When I started teaching, my attitude towards the vote, of course, changed. Now, this means my work is going to be assessed by the main stakeholders in the educational process – the students. Waiting for the results is now more emotional: I always read all the comments, and take into account any comment, praise, or complaint. Whenever possible, I try and fix this in my teaching, the courses, or my attitude to the students.
This is a very important feedback tool. I would even say that we should pay more attention to it and keep improving this process. It motivates us to become better; students can use this channel to safely and anonymously express all their regrets, discontent, and complaints about their teachers’ performance. On the basis of these assessments, we should improve our programmes and syllabi. Yes, this tool, like any other, has its disadvantages, but I believe, they don’t outweigh the benefits.
For me, this is an integral part of my job, which helps me understand what direction I should take, what I should fix, and what I need to further develop. It gives me confidence that I’m doing it right, or, on the contrary, that certain experiments have failed and need to be done differently next time. Without it, I would not be able to improve my existing courses and create the new ones. It’s also hard to overestimate the support I get from the comments left by students about my work. It really gives me the energy to continue, so I am very grateful to the students who believed in me and made me the teacher I am today. My students have always been my strictest and most important teachers.
ICEF, HSE/NES Programme in Economics, and most of HSE’s part-time programmes participate in the best teacher vote under different deadlines.
In addition, some major changes have been made on the STQA questionnaires. Information about the changes will be available soon.