I gathered feedback from all of my students today regarding the activities and approaches to learning in my classes. I included a reading list, topics/tasks covered, individual and group activities, etc, and asked them to anonymously write down their thoughts and opinions. It was a quick 10-minute survey and it gave me a few things to think about for next year.

Self-evaluations & peer feedback

Example activities: peer feedback based on criteria/checklist; general written comments from peers; feedback log to track peer/teacher comments and ideas to remedy situation; sometimes papers were randomly distributed, other times, students chose partners for peer feedback

  • There were comments from a few students about how they prefer getting feedback from teachers instead (either due to not wanting others to read their work, or placing greater value on teacher feedback)
  • Some comments from students wondering about the usefulness of self-evaluations (ie, denial, inability to see weaknesses/strengths)
  • A few students mentioned that they enjoyed finding out what other people thought of their writing
I still need to work on having students see the value of each other’s comments, but I think next year, I should start with smaller assignments in peer feedback sessions (eg in Embedded Formative Assessment, Dylan Wiliam suggests error classification, peer evaluation of homework, preflight checklist, etc)

Multi-modal assignments

Example activities: comic strip summaries, literary postcards, visual/textual collages, drawings, posters, re-enacting scenes, talk shows, role playing

  • Students who enjoyed these activities mentioned how they allowed them to consider character points-of-view and plot events
  • Students who love drawing or performing mentioned that they felt confident in doing those assignments and that it was a change from always having to write
  • Some students mentioned that if they wanted to draw or act, they would have taken Art or Drama
  • Some students said they were self-conscious about other people seeing their work/performances
Sounds like this is a case where I wasn’t clear enough with explaining the learning intentions and goals of those assignments. In my mind, I viewed these activities as another way to gauge comprehension/interpretation/inference, but some students thought they weren’t proper “English class” assignments.

Assignment deadlines

Most of the major work is done in class partly because I discovered early on that most things wouldn’t get handed-in otherwise. For anything that I send home with the students, I’ve always publicized a deadline, though extensions were granted, mostly without penalty.

  • Some comments were positive regarding the option for extensions.
  • Some comments expressed a sense of unfairness with allowing students to hand-in late work without penalty.

This is an approach I definitely need to rethink for next year because it didn’t work.

I used to deduct marks for each day an assignment was late. But then I worried that the deductions became a deterrent.

Then after hearing Damian Cooper and Douglas Reeves speak, I decided to eliminate zeroes. However, I ended up spending a lot of time this year reminding students, re-explaining the assignments, chasing down work, providing extra time in-class for help. Tomorrow is the last day of classes, and I still have a couple students who are months overdue on some writing. And these are cases where I have exempted or adapted several required assignments, so I need to see these missing pieces of writing, otherwise the term mark will not be an accurate reflection.

A side-effect of the no-zeroes policy is me being late with returning marked work as soon as possible. I end up holding on to assignments, thinking I’ll hand everything back at the same time to provide an opportunity in class for feedback logs and reflection.