Friday, July 11, 2014

End of School Reflections Part 4: Asynchronous Learning

This is a continuation of a week-long series of posts reflecting on the 2014-2015 school year, and directions for next year. Previous posts include:

End of School Reflections Part 1: Flipped Learning

End of School Reflections Part 2: Project-Based Learning

End of School Reflections Part 3: 1 to 1 Learning

Asynchronous Learning 
With the introduction of PBL this year, I was able to incorporate some flexibility into the pace of learning for my students. After the class explored a topic together in many ways (intriguing questions, content, investigations, simulations, discussions, etc.), all students took a 10-pt. digital exam on the content. They needed to get 100% correct to move on. If they didn't get 100% correct, they participated in some sort of in-class remediation and re-quizzed (different questions, same standards). After 2 traditional quizzes, students who hadn't passed were able to try verbal, hands-on quizzes I facilitated.  In the meantime, students who did pass their quiz were able to work on their projects. 

I also continued to require that students reach mastery (100%) on their science notebook assignments before receiving any credit for that assignment.  This is the second year I've used this procedure. I'll briefly give a you a clearer picture of what this looks like in the classes:

1. Student completes an assignment, or "learning artifact" in his/her lab notebook. This could be a graph and analysis of the data after an investigation. It could be a "discussion" paragraph after an in-class simulation. It might be a diagram that models a student's thinking on a particular topic. 

2. About once every other week, I collect all student notebooks and look over key learning artifacts. If a student has successfully demonstrated s/he understands the concept via the learning artifact, a score of 4/4 is entered into the gradebook. If there are still some areas of confusion, I leave notes* indicating where improvement need to be made. I do not give these students any grade, I simply mark the assignment as "work in progress" in the gradebook. 

*I have a key that all students have in the front of their notebooks that I use when recording these notes. For example, "EM" means "Explain More" and "R" is "Redo." I find that using these abbreviations not only saves me time in grading, but also requires that students either (a) think more deeply about how they can improve their work or (b) prompts the student to initiate a conversation with me about how they can improve their work.

3. When the students get their notebooks back, they check areas where notes have been made and complete corrections. When I collect notebooks again, I look over old assignments as well as new ones, giving grades to only those that meet mastery levels. Students have until the end of the quarter to complete corrections on all of their notebook assignments.

Result: I feel more confident of what my students learned this year, because they were held accountable for every learning target (standard) via the 10-pt. quizzes. They couldn't just "pass" the quiz and move on. I actually had one student complain, "But why do I have to retake the quiz? I got an 80%. That's good enough for me!" Some students are solely focused on the grade they feel is acceptable, and have forgotten that the whole point of them being in school is to learn. Students did appreciate the verbal quizzes, however, and it was amazing to me how much they knew that they just couldn't get across on a traditional multiple choice quiz. Many students were able to work at their own pace for the first time in a science class and work soared as a result. There were days when students were ahead of their peers in class, had finished their projects, and were asking for more work to do in class.  However, those students who took longer learning also took longer on their projects, which caused the projects to stretch out longer than I intended. 

In general, I feel like the methodology we use for notebook corrections pushes the students to do their best work and not "settle" for fuzzy understanding. Again, however, a handful of students every year are resistant to doing notebook corrections. They don't care that they will eventually earn full points on their assignments if they keep working on them - they just want to get them DONE with as little work and hassle as possible. There were a few students at the end of each quarter who still did not complete their corrections and received "Incompletes" for grades until finishing everything.

Actions: Based on the subjective data collected by the verbal quizzes, I need to find more varied ways to assess what my students know, and I need to create more frequent assessments. I'm probably biased here, but I've always felt like Biology teachers have the most challenging job of all the science teachers when it comes to assessments. Chemistry and Physics teachers can create loads of assessments on the same topic by simply shifting a few numbers in the problems they use. I saw this first-hand while teaching Chemistry last year! For Biology teachers, it's a little trickier to come up with 10 different versions of a question that determines if a student understands the difference between a hypertonic cell and a hypotonic cell. But, I will continue to search for better ways to understand what my students understand. I also feel a little uncomfortable that the students who learned faster had more time to work on their projects in class than the slower-learning students. I'm trying to figure out a way to restore that balance.

Regarding the notebook corrections, this year I'm going to find ways to incorporate more peer review in the process, as well as self-assessment. I want to get the students to the point at which they are fairly certain that their assignment achieves mastery before I even see it. They need to be able to judge the quality of their own work more accurately.

No comments:

Post a Comment