Archive for June, 2008

Finals Do Not Reflect Standards

How well does your final match up with your standards and particularly those standards which you identified as being critical for the course?

A colleague shared with me  a  course final which focuses on a topic not mentioned in the course proficiencies (standards).   Since it was her first time in teaching the course, she had not studied the final.  When she did, she wondered where it came from.  She went back through the course proficiencies again and still could not find the topic.  Then she went to the textbook and searched it for the topic; it was not there. Someone had decided that the final had to be a certain topic which was neither in the standards nor the textbook.

How well does your final match up with the specified standards and the high level of thinking in those standards?  Does your final measure all the standards and all of their parts?  Does it measure some of the standards and even just some of those learning goals?

A Wickedly Good Wiki Idea – Class Learning Notes

In one class I teach, students are required to stop periodically and write in their learning logs a summary of what they have just learned. I supply the topic or learning term and they supply the summary. Sometimes I provide a summary, sometimes the class provides a summary but, usually the students write their own summary of the learning.  Such learning log entries can make great wiki entries so you can assign one or two two student to post  the learning from the class.  Students who are absent can quickly find out the important learning from the lesson (what was really important in that chapter?) and students can review the class learning before doing homework based on the class learning. Such posting help in the class review of what we learned last class which starts each new class. Such posting serve as a history of the learnings in the class over the semester or year.

Posting learning logs creates a powerful learning wiki.  So how do you use a wiki to improve student learning?

Creating Formative Feedback “I can” sheets

One way to help students and to help ourselves is to create “I Can” sheets which also list the formative feedback strategies so that we do not have to list them each time. We can use a student’s “I can” sheet and circle which formative feedback we feel will be most appropriate or have the student select. We have to verify that each activity will lead to improved learning.

For example, this partial “I can” list can be expanded to include formative feedback

___I can identify items in a topic/situation.

–I can make statements about a topic/situation.

___I can ask questions about a topic/situation

For a Spanish student who has trouble with talking and particularly talking about a topic with a visual, the “I can” statement can be expanded:

–I can make statements about a topic/situation from a visual
by describing
each person by clothing (shirt, shoes) and/or by personal description (tall, thin…),
each object by its description (color- red, shape-round) and what it is used for (There is water in the glass).
what actions are in the picture (shop, buy, sell, walk)
the nature (tree, bird) and the weather (sunny)
by saying as much as I can about any object or person before I go to the next person or object.
by listening to other students as they describe a visual and them imitating them or listening to sample speaking podcast.
by watching the “Spanish speaking” YouTube video where the instructor shows how to speak about a visual as you “read” it

By creating formative assessment “I can” sheets, we already have numerous possible formative feedback from which to select.

Do you do “I can” sheets with formative assessments so your students “Can”?

Portfolio -Real Reflections or Surface Ones?

I’m still thinking about the conversation with a person about portfolios at her college. She says that the students are helped in their reflections since the college provides a worksheet. When she showed me the worksheet which was in thin columns – it asked for the evidence, what they thought was good and what improvements they can think of.

I realized that students have to have very small ideas to fit in the columns. Students were not asked what they had learned about the standard from their college experiences. They were encouraged to think of changes but without identifying what they had learned, I do not know how they could tell what they still needed to learn or change. They did not have the standard in front of them to identify which parts that have had success with and which parts they still needed to work on.

Do your students’ portfolio reflections represent in-depth thinking or surface comments?

Formative Assessment for Essay Writing

I found a simple way to check students’ essay writing. I read their thesis and then read the first sentence of each paragraph for their topic sentences. Finally I read their conclusion. If the thesis, topic sentences, and thesis restatement in the concluding paragraph are not strong then almost always the rest of their essay is very weak.

I have students peer-evaluate by reading each other’s paper and underlining the thesis, topic sentences and restatement in the concluding paragraph if these sentences do support the thesis. Students soon realize that often the first sentence of their paragraph does not tell the purpose of the paragraph. Many times they dive into the topic without showing how it relates to the thesis. After they do the peer-evaluation, I offer students the opportunity to rewrite their topic sentences while the topic sentence idea is still fresh in their mind.

How do help improve your students’ work?

Changing Formative Ideas into Formative Practice

My oral presentation students do a pre- and post -assessment of themselves for each speech. I agree with their self-assessments. However, once they know their learning gaps, they do not know how to improve.  They may self analysis that  “I need to have more eye contact.” but they do not improve in it.

I have found that if I can give them some “hands-on” hints to improve then they do improve. I used to tell them to look up after each period but I found that many  students just kept on reading.  Now I have them put a large slash at the end of each sentence and, furthermore, I suggest that the slash is in a bold color like red and that it is a big slash. I want them to see that slash and then look up. Now my students do have eye contact as they read their speech. The physical reminder causes them to demonstrate a good speaking technique.

Many students need physical reminders of how to do well.  Words do not suffice.  What physical techniques do you give your students so they can improve?

Portfolio Orientation – Get Real!

I was talking to an instructor who was explaining the portfolio process at her college. She said that they had a portfolio day to introduce the portfolio  to all students.  They took the students through a series of exercises; however, never did the students actually see a real portfolio nor  did they look at their own material which might go in the portfolio. Instead they did a series of “cute” exercises.

My only thought was “Get real”.  If I had been in charge, I would start out with the purpose of the portfolio, show them the standards/proficiencies they have to demonstrate, show them a portfolio from the previous semester,  have them examine some possible material for a portfolio and decide which best demonstrates the standard, and have them examine a reflection on the standard to evaluate how well it explains what the student has learned and has yet to learn.  The more we replicate the real experience, the better our students understand the process and can be successful in it.


RSS Education with Technology

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