Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Teaching Tip #178

Teacherscribe’s Teaching Tip #178

To earn the WEM award, I had to answer several questions in essay format.  Here is one of them that I found particularly interesting.

How do you develop student-developed goals into your classroom?

2. There are a number of ways I incorporate student-developed goals into my classroom. First, my classes craft their own core values. I share the core values of our staff with my classes; we discuss what we liked about them and how we might develop our own core values.  Next, I ask my students to search companies, teams, and organizations they admired to find examples of other core values.  Then using a shared Google Drive document, I had each student devise three core values.  Finally, over the course of two days, we examined all of the suggestions, grouped them into five general themes (facing failure, rigor, acceptance, respect, learning), and finally combined and reworked the student-generated suggestions into five core values: 1.  Failure is essential and inevitable; the key is to learn from our failures.  2. Keep it simple but make it significant. 3. Be open-minded and explore new things: STEP OUTSIDE OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE. 4. Respect ideas that aren’t your own.  5.  Take something new from class everyday.
This little exercise, done the first week of the year, is critical in helping us forge a remarkable classroom culture.  What I love about these core values, which we display on a whiteboard, is that every time I see a student doing something that embodies a core value, I recognize it and praise them in front of the class.  Soon I have other students recognizing their classmates (and even their teacher) when they meet a core value.  This exercise has become an absolute must in my classes to not just implement student-developed goals but to also help foster our classroom culture.
Another way I seek student input for achievement is through surveys.  A requirement of teaching College in the High School is to administer an anonymous survey at the end of the semester.  Students analyze their efforts as well as my effectiveness.  They offer suggestions that help reinforce the effectiveness of the readings and assignments; they offer feedback on what can be improved to help me improve the course and keep it engaging and relevant.  This feedback is vital in helping me shape my classes.

I also use action research, first developed by Dr. Nancy Dana, to refine my practice and to ensure that my content leads to student learning and academic gains.  I just completed an action research study in conjunction with professors at UND and other teachers and administrators from the area.  My topic focused on how I modified the way I delivered feedback on my students’ essays in order to improve their writing and, ultimately, be prepared for the rigors of writing in college.  In the past, I used to have students turn in their rough drafts. Then I would scawl comments and feedback on them and return them as soon as I could, which sometimes was the next day but often was several days later. This was not effective. The scores on my students’ final drafts proved this.  So since we moved to a 1:1 MacBook Air school, I decided to try something different to give better feedback to my students.  Now, students share their rough drafts with me via Google Drive, giving me editing privileges.  This way I can drop in on them while they are actually writing and give them immediate feedback. Students don’t have to wait a day or two to get their drafts back.  My feedback now is immediate, and students’ scores on their final drafts have risen significantly.  Best of all, once I help students with such basic things as avoiding sentence fragments, fixing run-ons, crafting engaging introductions, and using examples to support their claims, early on in the semester, they more easily master these skills and apply them on their own without having to rely on me helping them as much later in the semester.

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