November 2, 2012

SBG and Retention

Just wanted to make a quick post today before I take my students on a weekend trip for fieldwork in the wetlands - so looking forward to this.  Field work is real science - at least I'd like to think so.

This is my second year of using SBG and suffice it to say, it's still a work in progress.  I'm still trying to figure out the best way to do assessments.  In the past I had used quizzes, but am slowly (ok, stubbornly) learning that quizzes are actually for me to judge the effectiveness of instruction, not a student's understanding.  I need to learn different ways to assess student learning & understanding besides just quizzes.  How can I vary the way I assess students?  Someone suggested that a student project can be used as an assessment.  My challenge to that is -- but if I'm supporting/helping the student as they work, how can I determine they are learning?  Isn't the purpose of SBG for students to show me they have independently learned an idea or concept?  Can anyone shed light on this?

I just read a post over at Think Thank Thunk today and it triggered some thoughts about student retention.  What is learning?  What is retention?  How realistic is it to expect students to retain information about dwarf planets or the process of a dividing cell when they probably don't care about it?  It may be important to them now to retain the information because they earn a grade for it.  However, after they finish high school, will they continue to retain the information?  Most likely not, unless they have a career interest in NASA or being a veterinarian.

One thing I have determined -- students who have been in this SBG system for the 2nd year show increased effort and desire to do well.  First year students are also somewhat learning how it works.  What I want them to do is learn the values of (to name a few) hard work, practice, honesty with themselves, and developing problem solving strategies - these are the things I hope they "retain" after high school.  No matter the content they want to learn about some day, they will have these values that will drive them to be successful.

It is our character that helps us to be successful, not the amount of information we know or retain.

September 28, 2012

Growing Pains

Well, it's not a weekly reflection as I hoped it would be, but 1 month later, here I am.  I have to remember to breathe, take small steps, take it one day at a time, and all those expressions that basically say its okay if it doesn't happen right away.  Keep plugging away and in no time, it'll become a regular habit.

Boy, I'm trying to push myself to be a better teacher and person this year.  I wonder if I'm overdoing it.  I really liked how SBG worked last year. So far this year, it's smoother since the students have had one year under their belt and know how it works.  The new students are going through their learning curve.

So my issue that I'm facing these past few weeks is working on becoming a better inquiry teacher.  Working so hard on developing questions that will challenge students.  I also get so frustrated sometimes when students aren't able to arrive at a conclusion.  So I'm asking those who are reading this for advice.  Do students struggle to comprehend because they are not given enough direction to begin with or is it because they are struggling with higher level thinking skills?  I want to jump in and just give them the answers!  I know this won't help them in the long run, though.  It makes me want to pull my hair out of my head!!!!!

For example, here's a question I posed to them.  Lots of the students were interested in pyramids.

               "What is the latitude and longitude of the pyramids in Chichen Itza?"   I gave them a list of
                vocabulary words that included latitude, longitude, equator, and prime meridian.  I asked them to
                find the answer to the question and in their reports, they were to incorporate the vocabulary given.

Most of them just looked up the meanings and wrote down the latitude and longitude of the place.   That was it.  I don't know what I was expecting, but I didn't expect it to be so bare bones simple.

So lay it on me -- how was that for an inquiry project for them?  Too little to start with?   What was it supposed to look like?   Any feedback you can give me will be great.  You won't hurt my feelings, I promise.  I want to hone my craft.  Iron sharpens iron!

Thanks to all who give feedback!

August 23, 2012

Back From Cyberspace!

Hi all....

   After navigating (ok, getting lost in) the world of SBG last year, I am back again and have resolved to try updating more frequently this year.  Clearly I did not know what I was getting into with 5 classes and 5 different preps and installing an SBG grading system and not giving homework. All of these definitely challenged me as a teacher and students as well. I saw positive and negative results last year, but more of the former that is encouraging me to continue to use this strategy this year with tweaking and experimenting, of course.

   Positive results:
  • Students had increased awareness of their learning responsibilities
  • Students wanted to improve their recall of information, which led to discussion of study strategies and looking for apps to use
  • Grades more accurately reflected knowledge of content and skills
  • Less time spent on grading
  • More time spent on developing ideas or giving students feedback
  • Student knows exactly what they did or did not understand
  • More parent involvement
  • Giving parents a realistic picture of their child's abilities

   Negative results:
  • Students had a hard time adjusting to high accountability
  • Frustrated students because couldn't give evidence they understood the concept or skill
  • I wasn't sure where student independence begins and I end
  • Didn't see many students come in after school as I would have liked
   Jury still out:
  • Overall, scores were lower. Is this because of SBG's increased accountability? Student motivation? Poor performance on my part? Not giving homework?
  • Is the SBG I developed a fair way to assess?

Gonna stop for today, but I will have another post within a few days about goals for the year, personal and professional. In the meantime, I hope to be a better poster/reflector on this blog and other blogs as well.

Best wishes to all of you starting another school year!