Saturday, 10 May 2014

#hackyrclass first week - part 2

The first week of term and more excitingly, the first week of the #hackyrclass movement (yes, it is a movement! In fact I'm calling it the #hackyrclass revolution ;) ) has passed, and I'm certainly back into the swing of things. We have 8 teaching days left before assessment week (exams, internal assessments), and so the pressure is on to make every lesson count.

A completely bizarre time to try out new things, you say? Not in my mind - because everything I'm doing is trying to maximise my students' learning opportunities, and I'm trying to get them to make the most of the 'contact' learning time we have together (because I know they are also learning outside of class - grateful for YouTube view tracker plus Moodle logs!).

This week being growth mindset focused (see Claire Amos' blog), my aim was to get my students embracing the challenge of taking charge of their own learning journeys. I also sought feedback on both how students approached their learning, and how they felt about the learning approaches we had tried this week.

Things I did this week:
  • Let students make mistakes: we are prepping for a L1 science practical internal, which is rather a big deal for our students (kinda scary for them to design an experiment, carry it out, collect data, analyse data, write a method, discussion and evaluation all in a set time frame, all by themselves). But I know that students (and me!) learn best by doing, not being told, and I include making mistakes in this. Several times I caught students using methods that I know are not reliable or accurate but instead of telling them how to improve then and there, I let them collect their data and see what discrepant results they had. This meant we could then have a discussion about what went wrong, and they were able to problem solve and correct the issue. Had I just told them to use the exact same equipment for repeats (for example), they wouldn't have really seen why that was so necessary.
  • Seek feedback as to how they approach problems and challenges:  I surveyed both a junior class, who have recently been away at a camp for one month (part of school curriculum), and also a senior class, asking how they approached life, basing the questions on ideas behind the growth mindset. Questions below:
Interestingly, all students responded that they knew they were capable of improving their intelligence through effort. The other questions were more mixed, with the juniors especially responding that they often saw other's success as threatening.

The juniors did state that their approach to learning had changed since their camp, and nearly all said they were now more resilient, and more likely to persist in the face of setbacks as a result of the camp. (feedback I will pass onto the camp co-ordinators, really good feedback!)

I did notice that individual students responding that they avoided challenges, gave up easily or ignored useful negative feedback were my students who tend to struggle a bit more with their learning - something to follow up on and see what I can do to change their mindset! 

  •  The last thing I want to write about was the big thing I did this week: 'flipping' the learning with my Year 13 class. I pre-recorded myself talking through slides I had planned to use in class (via the explain everything app on iPad), and asked the students to watch these prior to class, so we could use our class time to differentiate their learning, and I could thoroughly check-in with every student during class time, run mini-tutorials to those who needed it, and basically personalise their learning (rather than have me run through the slides in class time, which is an obviously passive, sage on the stage type approach which I am really not comfortable with, and it makes me feel immensely dissatisfied!) 
The videos were reasonably intense (the Biology they learn in Y13 is full-on, stuff I didn't learn until 2nd-3rd year physiology!), and so I had my doubts as to how good their retention would be..... but as soon as I asked some introductory questions the next day, and they all enthusiastically responded with really good understanding (although that obviously still had to be unpacked), it blew me away.

Our lessons were more productive than they had been last term, and every student was working on something different, something that they needed to move forward. I happily played the role of guide on the side and was able to provide differing levels of help depending on what they each wanted. (I used SOLO taxonomy to differentiate activities for them as below):

I continued to develop this throughout the week, and by the end of the week I had the students come up with their own learning objectives, and even more excitingly, categorise them using SOLO, so they could get an idea about which activities might help them the most.

  What could get more exciting than this, I hear you ask? Their feedback! I've just started collecting data, but so far it's looking good, and even better they have had some really helpful constructive criticism and suggested ways to improve the approach, including breaking the videos into smaller sections (something I had planned already), and even multiple suggestions of having a quiz at the end to test their knowledge (something I'll do with Edmodo). The media (and perhaps other teachers) don't give these learners enough credit: they know how they best learn, and give them a chance - they will tell you what they want.

Other surprising results so far - I'm finding I have more 'free time' available, as I am doing incidental marking and feedback in class, and because I would have been prepping at night anyway, it's not taking up any more of my time. Work in progress? Definitely, and certainly things to improve upon and change as we go, but because the student feedback has been positive so far, we'll keep going down this road.... remembering that this is but one tool I can use - approaches to improve student ownership, not use technology for the sake of it!

So all up a good week! Many of these things I would have got around to eventually (I already had the flipped video thing planned from last term), but having the #hackyrclass community there to give constructive feedback and most of all a sense of accountability has been a real impetus - a great start to the term. Thank you @ClaireAmosNZ :)

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