Making learning easier + more difficult

It’s clean up time. Before getting on the plane and heading home to the Pacific Northwest after a two year hiatus, I want to process what students have to say.

Using “forms” in gDrive makes for an easy survey but I haven’t yet found the best questions. I try a mixture of set-answers and free response questions. While the visuals from set-answers provide a quick glance into the group’s habits and patterns, the free responses give me comments to chew on. This year’s version…

A new pair of questions that I stumbled across somewhere but can’t remember where are “What does Frank do to make learning easier for you?” and “What  does Frank do to make learning more difficult for you?”

Let’s start with the good – what do I need to keep on doing next year…

  • Students who bought into the standards-based grading system and took advantage of additional assessments outside of class time voiced their appreciation. 
    • “Frank makes us reassess each time if we don’t get a concept right which helps us learn the concepts better.”
    • “Giving us regular assessments and giving us feedback about what we need to do in order to learn more.”
    • I was impressed by the students who transitioned to being in charge of their learning. While the final grade stayed important to them, several students really upped their efforts in learning concepts. I need to improve on feedback.
  • Several students mentioned the class webpage as a good resource. During the year, I tried to move towards posting class objectives, questions, class flow and additional resources online. I need to continue to give students a place to help review and find more information. In another part of the survey, 75% of students indicated that the web page is visited at least weekly. How do I capture the rest?
  • Inquiry and hands-on activities are always a winner. I need to continue making class active and work on “being less helpful”.
Alright, what do I need to work on….
  • “to return reassessments faster, and to have more chance in class” I recently read a post (aah! I can’t remember who) where someone wrote about the words we use and how “reassessment” can be slightly misleading. I have used the term this year but will shift to” student-initiated assessment”. I’m finding the importance of being more deliberate in my practice and word choice. Regarding the student’s comment, I agree. This year I did a good job of returning full class assessments but at times student-initiated assessments took time. I’m not good at keeping track of paper and I see students every other day. It’s not a good excuse but sometimes I get into a class and forget the pile of papers waiting to be returned. Work on it.
  • Sometimes, there are too little discussions.” Reality check for me. I really try to put the talking on students but at least some don’t think I’m doing this well. I have already ordered a set of whiteboards for next year and plan to use those to facilitate discussion.
  • “His grading system” Comments along this vein were quite common. I’m still processing my first go at SBG and will write something up soon. The interesting note is the general mixing up of learning and a grade. It appears that for many of my students if their desired final grade was difficult to obtain then learning was difficult. I need to work on ways to help students understand differences.
A few comments that I see as positives though were not likely written as such:
  • “Frank makes learning harder by telling us to explain the math problem or how does it work.”  My initial reflection of the SBG year is how clearly it showed me that students are accustomed to regurgitating information. When deliberately pushed for more, many struggle to make connections and describe ideas.
  • “He doesn’t answer the questions we ask he replies with a question, which makes learning more difficult but it allows us to think about it more.”  Be less helpful…
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