The value of student feedback in open forums: A natural analysis of descriptions of poorly rated teachers


  • Carlos Valcarcel Arizona State University
  • Jeffrey Holmes Arizona State University
  • David C. Berliner Arizona State University
  • Mari Koerner Arizona State University



student evaluation of teacher performance, natural language processing, feedback (response), school policy, high schools, middle schools


In this paper we used natural language processing to review hundreds of thousands of negative student reviews of their teachers submitted to the website Our analysis identified several issues raised by students when rating teachers poorly, which adds to the literature that defines “bad teachers” from the student perspective. We also identify the language students used to describe these issues and notice a clear distinction between the language used to address teaching-related complaints and behavior perceived as unfit for teachers. We argue that digital forums can be valuable tools for schools and conclude with suggestions and examples of the type of policies that may be derived from this type of analysis of a digital forum for students. 


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Author Biographies

Carlos Valcarcel, Arizona State University

Carlos Valcarcel is currently a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley but formerly held a position as a Research Analyst at the Center for the Art and Science of Teaching (CAST) at Arizona State University (ASU) under Dr. Mari Koerner. His research focus began in environmental economics and later shifted toward education and educational policy. He has published articles in the academic journal Applied Economics Letters and worked on numerous grant-funded research projects in his role as Sr. Researcher at the Digital Teaching and Learning Action Lab at ASU. He has also published articles on data-science, programming and cognitive-gaming for dyslexia. His current research interests focus on community organization and technology transfer in social and economic development contexts.

Jeffrey Holmes, Arizona State University

Jeffrey Holmes is an Instructor in Film and Media Studies within the Department of English. He received his PhD in Rhetoric, Composition, and Literacy from Arizona State University. His research focuses on the changing landscape of teaching and learning both in schools and in informal settings, in particular through digital media and distributed teaching and learning systems. He has published in academic journals such as On the Horizon and Well Played and regularly presents at conferences such as the American Educational Research Association (AERA), Games+Learining+Society (GLS), Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR), and the Rhetoric Society of America (RSA). He has also consulted on projects around the globe, including UNESCO, the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Peace and Sustainable Development, the Toronto Public Libraries, State Libraries of New South Wales, and Pearson, LLC.

David C. Berliner, Arizona State University

David C. Berliner is Regents’ Professor of Education, Emeritus, at Arizona State University. He is a member of the National Academy of Education, the International Academy of Education, and a past president of both the American Educational Research Association [AERA]and the Division of Educational Psychology of the American Psychological Association [APA]. He has won numerous awards for his work on behalf of the education profession, and authored or co-authored over 400 articles, chapters and books. He co-edited the first Handbook of Educational Psychology and the books Talks to TeachersPerspectives on Instructional Time, and Putting Research to Work in Your School. He has interests in the study of teaching, teacher education, and educational policy.

Mari Koerner, Arizona State University

Mari Koerner is Professor Emerita of Education at Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Her prior service at ASU includes serving as Dean of the College of Teacher Education and Leadership at Arizona State University's West campus (2006-2010) and Dean of Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College (2010-2016). Professor Koerner’s book, “THE SUCCESSFUL DEAN: Thoughtful Strategies and Savvy Tips for Today’s Evolving Leadership,” was published by Teachers College Press in 2020. She has served as principal investigator or co-director of over $100,000,000 million of grant-funded programs.




How to Cite

Valcarcel, C., Holmes, J., Berliner, D. C., & Koerner, M. (2021). The value of student feedback in open forums: A natural analysis of descriptions of poorly rated teachers. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 29(January - July), 79.

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