Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Getting Better 2 x 2

What have I gotten better at this year?

Giving concise & specific feedback to students. Especially when multiple things need attention, I have gotten better at holding back and just pointing out one thing that students need to work on and how they can do it.

I have gotten better at explicitly building in coherence across lessons, both through what I do in class and in what I ask students to do for assignments. I am still struggling to do this, but I am getting better.

What do I still need to figure out or work on?

Building more systematic coherence among (1) learning goals, (2) opportunities for students to learn them, and (3) assessment of learning goals. There are a lot of things I don't assess that I should be. I often shift priorities too much throughout the year, especially in classes that do not have high external accountability.

Getting to know my students better. I just recently learned something about one of my students that I should have known earlier- It has been his dream since 8th grade to be a science teacher.


  1. Brian,

    Building coherence across lessons and presenting all the ideas throughout the course as part of a greater whole (trying to help them develop a suitable-to-their-level expert-like framework) are very high on my "must improve list", but they seem to always lose to my prep time that is available.

    Is there one thing that you feel you have done that has improved your coherence across lessons? What sort of systematic coherence are you picturing across learning goals?

  2. So, right now I am teaching a "science teaching seminar," so it's a different kind of coherence than a science course. I have done two things that I think translate.

    -- I encourage outside visitors to my come to class, and have students give mini-presentations about our class to help this person get the big picture of what we are learning. I learn a lot about how my students are thinking about the big picture and what connections they see or don't see.

    -- I make sure that homework includes questions that ask students to make connections between what we have learned to what we are learning. I am surprised at how much this has led student to go back and reread and relearn things, and to even tell me that with little notes, "I went back and reread the whole section on so-and-so."

  3. Brian,

    I really like both of these ideas. I'm not sure in which of my classes I would picture idea 1 would work, but I will keep that idea in my back pocket and will hopefully remember it when I come across a time where it would work.

  4. Yeah, the first one is the weird, but powerful. I think it's also more about having a venue with an authentic audience. I suppose a student blog can do that, but students have to feel that someone outside the class is really listening. I think it's works less well if they feel it's just for class or the teacher.

  5. I haven't seen any implementations of student blogging that end up having an authentic audience (unfortunately).