Category Archives: feedback

Stopping students from "cramming"

by Alex. Schultz

So it is the end of the quarter and the past two weeks I have been bombarded by students “re-assessing” their standards. We use standards based grading and students can re-do any of their assessments until they meet the standard fully. It is supposes to be a process of student submitting work, getting feedback, and then refining their work and understanding. This is happening with some students, but what has happened this week has been more of an “Oh crap” moment of poor grades from students and/or their parents. So then they quickly write up and re-do as many standards as possible, often of questionable quality of work.

With the new quarter starting Monday I am instituting two changes to try to correct this gaming of the system and to encourage students to really wrestle with the content without focusing on grades. First of all to prevent the wait until the last minute attitude, students will be required to initiate a re-assessment of a standard within two weeks of the first assessment or they forfeit the opportunity to re-assess. With a re-assessment attempt they will gain another two week window to continue to work on the assessment. By this I hope to encourage students to begin re-assessment immediately and build in a habit of doing and receiving feedback and doing again and of course eliminate waiting until the end of the quarter to cram.

The second thing is also quite simple, but I think that it will be powerful is I realized an easy way to withhold grades from students. I think many teachers realize that as soon as a grade has been attached to any assignment students have been conditioned to view it as “done” and are not motivated to continue in it. We use an LMS called Echo(similar to Blackboard or Moodle) where students submit their work and we assign grades. What we normally do in our class is have students submit a link to a Google Doc where the actual work is done. We then add comments to the GDoc and put a score in Echo. The change I plan to make is that I will not “publish” the grades in Echo. Therefore students will not be able to see the score I have assigned to it. Instead I will tell the class that I have read their assignments and left them comments. I will give them time in class to look at the comments, revise their work, and re-submit. By not showing them their scores I eliminate the student who says, “I have a 70% (or a 80% or even a 100%) and that is good enough for me.” In a way I can force the first cycle of feedback/re-assessment without the students thinking about the grade. Hopefully they will continue to fix things even after I finally hit publish.

Of course if neither of these changes prove helpful I will adapt and look for other solutions to encourage students to always view their learning as a process rather than something that they are “done” with.

Better "homework" practice

I was just venting Friday about how when I teach a new concept in my math class the majority of the students do not seem to be listening very well. When I have them start working on their own problems, too many of them need me to re-teach to them. I enjoy doing this but I find that I run out of class time before I can help them all. So my first solution is to pair them up and have a few of my students that “get” concepts quickly help those that tend to struggle.

Then I found a great resource to help on twitter. That Quiz is a math site (and some geography, science, and vocabulary in English, Spanish, German, and French too) that I learned about from @karlyb. It covers many of our math topics and is designed for teachers to make and give quizzes. My purpose will be a bit different. First of all I can have students select specific problems related to our current unit. But what I like about the site is it immediately gives feedback on whether they got a problem right or wrong. This will serve the same purpose as giving students the answers to their homework ahead of time as recommended by Matt Townsley. The problem I have with just giving them the answers ahead of time is that this unit (area, perimeter, volume, surface area) is so easy that it is really just memorize the formula and plug and chug.

Therefore I can have students practice on this site and they can self-assess the areas that they understand and those where they need help. I think I will be using this site as a review tool from now on. Then I can spend my time helping re-teach the concepts that they tell me they need help on.