Now, why is it that great ideas seem to come when you don't have access to pen and paper to jot them down?
Of course I am in the shower when I had an epiphany. Actually it was a series of ways of how I can change the structure of my class to make this method work better for everyone.
- Change the structure of the room--I think part of the problem with allowing the students to structure the room is they work with people that are at their level in the material and so have no one to really turn to when they get stuck except me. If specific parts of the room are focused toward different types of work, it will create more heterogeneous groups. Three lab benches will be dedicate to lab work this way I don't have to worry about constantly setting up and tearing down labs because all of the necessary equipment will already be there. The place that students typically need help the most is on homework and review sheets so 1-2 benches will be dedicated for this purpose. If all of the students at the bench are working on homework, they will give them a better chance of getting immediate help. This will now leave the desks space for general purpose or test taking.
- Redesign the videos--The videos mimic my previous lecture style: a bit of notes followed by examples the illustrate the content. One student this year is tried to complete the entire marking period without watching the videos and learning everything from the homework problems or other students. This got me thinking that maybe the examples don't need to be in the video with the content. So, the main videos will be strictly content with all examples problems moved to separate videos (think video 1a and 1b to keep them connected). This will give me more time in the videos to explain content and throw in some animations or other short video clips as illustration. The videos will also be a lot shorter.
- Standard-based assignments--while I started to make this change this past marking period, all it really do is make it clearer what objective the assignments are linked to. However, I don't feel I could really say whether a student mastered an objective based on the results of the assignment. So, homework and test questions will be focused on specific objectives first and then have some integrated problems at the end. Each assignment will also be broken down into smaller sets with fewer points. They will add to the same in the end, but this will allow me to evaluate them more frequently and give better, more specific feedback prior to final assessments.
- Tests--The tests will also have a radical change to them. The fact that tests take an entire period really hurts the flow of the class. Tests will be broken up into 3 parts of 15 minutes each to allow them to be taken over the course of the entire unit. What does sitting down for a 45 minute stretch of time at the end of a unit really prove about their ability to take a test? That they can recall information they learned 3 weeks prior? Since the questions will be focused on specific groups of objectives, as soon as they feel they have mastered the objectives, they can sit for that portion. If a student wants to take multiple or all of the parts on the same day, so be it. I used to think that tests were a great way to prepare students for midterms/finals, but how does a 45 minute test on 1 unit really prepare them for a 2 hour semester examination? I'll let the other courses prepare them for that.
- Weekly progress indicators--The number one complaint from the student who hated my class is that she couldn't manage her time properly and needed me to tell her what to do. Now, I still give the assignment chart which details all of the "due dates," but she needs more. So each week the students will receive a grade out of 5 based on their completion of assignments/objectives. If they are on track, they get a 5; if they are behind they get a 0. I know this is a little unfair, but carrots can be great motivators, especially little ones like this that will add to be about 2 homework assignments by the end of the MP. Now, unbeknownst to them, the grade will not be averaged into their MP grade, but will still be visible to them and their parents.
I don't know if any of this will work. But, what I do know, is what I am doing isn't working for everyone. Sure most of the class has said how much they enjoy what we are doing, but the ones who don't really, really hate it. Changes need to be made for that latter group.
I would love to hear thoughts/comments. Any help you can give is greatly appreciated.