Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Formative Assessment -- Student Surveys

Earlier this year, I began reading Embedding Formative Assesment by Dylan Wiliam and Siobhan Leahy. In February I was fortunate to hear Dr. Wiliam speak as keynote at this year's T^3 International Conference. Now I'm trying to incorporate some of the ideas in my teaching practice.

Large changes are unlikely to last, so I'm making small moves. I'm focusing on two things in particular. 1) no hands up except to ask a question; and 2) student surveys to encourage self-reflection and increase student ownership of learning.

No hands seemed counter-intuitive to me. But once I read the explanation it made sense. Rather than take volunteers for answers, which encourages some students to show off, some students to check out (by not volunteering), and has little impact on learning, I choose who will answer the questions. I am currently doing my own pseudo-random selection of students, and am working on a more mechanized randomizer. I intended to do this several years ago, but never followed through. As a result, I have a set of poker chips in several colors. I will use different colors for each class, and write student names on the chips.

Already, with my pseudo-random selection, I see slightly better attention. Students understand that calling on them is not an attack. They know they can say they don't know, and there is no penalty. Sometimes I also offer them the option to "phone a friend" and pass the question on to someone else. Other times, I do the selection. In my highly subjective opinion, I have a little bit better engagement.

The student survey is a set of five questions about student feelings on pace of lesson, difficulty, interest in lesson, understanding, and learning as a result of the lesson. I set this up as a Nspire document, which I can distribute to my Calculus class via Nspire Navigator. This is quick and painless for me and the students, and the responses are collated into an easy to read bar graph. My Algebra 2 students don't have Nspire, and I've been giving them a paper survey. I find this cumbersome, as I need to transcribe their answers into a spreadsheet for analysis of trends. I need to figure out a better way to do this on a regular basis with those students.