Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Feedback: Chapter 3 "The Tell Tale Students"


As with the last post, the following post is a listing of my "sticky notes" and some further reflection on each.

At the beginning of this chapter, Pollack mentions "The Tell-Tale Students." These are the students who become disengaged in the lesson and "...indicate in that moment that our teaching technique is not helping them learn well." Pollack points out that we need to be aware of these students and use the valuable feedback they have provided us in that moment and change something.

My notes...

• Goal + Feedback = Engagement

Pollack's assertion here is that if the student has a clear goal, and is given feedback on his/her relationship to that goal throughout the lesson, that they will be more engaged. Simply having a goal is not enough; we need to know how we are doing in order to be continually focussed on that goal.

Really, this is an "out of sight out of mind" scenario. If the student is told the goal of the day at the beginning of the day and it is not referenced again, they will not be focused. If there are checks throughout the lesson and they are continually asked to take stock of where they are in relation to the goal, they will be more on task.

• Goal/Objective Form & Rubric

There are few examples in the book of forms that students can use to interact with the objective. Here is the form and rubric that my school has created based on the forms found in the book. The idea is that the student:

1. Copy the objective/goal of the day
2. Rates their understanding of the topic at the beginning and end of class
3. Rates their motivation to learn about the topic at the beginning and end of class
4. Rates their effort during the lesson

• Seeing the standard is not enough. Students need to understand why it is important.

How many times have we heard "Why do we have to know this?"? How many times have we wanted to answer "BECAUSE!"? The 21st Century learner wants to know how the material you are giving them will matter to them and the world they live in. This is sometimes a tough sell, but if you make the sale, it pays off dividends.

• Effort vs. Motivation

I take issue with the amount of emphasis the book places on "effort." Effort is not a determinant of learning. We have all known students who didn't have to try at all and the material came so easily to them. We have also known students who work harder than anyone in class and still cannot grasp the material. I contend that Motivation should be the focus, rather than Effort. Motivation does affect the rate and degree of learning, as per Madeline Hunter's Instructional Theory Into Practice. So, that is why my teachers and I added the Motivation column to the Goal/Objective Sheet. However, as you can see, we still left "Effort" so that kids can still be reminded that it is vital that they work as hard as they can in class.

• Sharing Goal Understanding with a neighbor

This is a great way to start the Feedback Loop running! Simply sharing with a neighbor can open up teaching between peers and also build a sense of community. When people feel safe and not alone, they will be engaged. Pair/Share and other cooperative learning strategies are so valuable because they provide each learner with additional resources besides the teacher. I don't know how many times I learned a concept through a conversation with a friend rather than the teacher.

• Purposeful Interactions

It is important to build relationships. There is no doubt about it that students will be motivated to work for a teacher when they know the teacher has taken interest in them. However, it is important that all interactions within the lesson are purposeful. This means that every question, anecdote, story, and activity are directly in-line with the objective. If a student starts to veer off topic, it is necessary for the teacher to re-direct him or her back on track and aimed at the objective. Again, we want to have fun with our students and tell jokes and stories, but it is best to save those for between classes or lessons so that the learning path is clear.

• Always come back to the objective.

When you stop to check for understanding, to begin a different activity, or when an interruption (fire drill, announcement, etc.) occurs, always remind the students about the objective and have them interact with it in some way. Make sure it is crystal clear what is to be learned today and why you are doing the things you are doing. Finally, as I have said before, make sure you have the kids go back to the objective at the end of the class or lesson as well. Think about will remember a person's name better because you have interacted with them more.

• Goal sheets add structure to the beginning and ending of classes.

I think most teachers would agree that the most wasted time comes at the beginning and end of class. At the beginning, attendance needs to be taken, people are handing in assignments, announcements are being made...the list goes on and on. At the end, some of the same activities are taking place. Use this time to have the kids interact with the objective. They will now have something structured to do during those times and it will be far more meaningful.

• Do teachers share the standards and objectives of their classes with their students?

My guess is that it is not very often that this happens. I don't think students know what the state standards are. It might bore them to tears, but it might also be a "wake-up-call" when they see the breadth of skills they need to master. My school has required teachers to post course objectives and daily clear learning goals. If you make it clear as to why the student is here, what they are required to do, and why it is important in their life, there will be less resistance.

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