Earlier, I wrote a series of posts sharing the results of a survey my colleagues and I gave to our students (following up, freedom and independence, small group reteaching). As I read through the feedback my students gave me, I realized that I had missed a question, a very important one: we had asked the students their opinion about doing reteaching in small groups after Skill Assessments/to prepare for retakes, but I hadn’t asked the students how they felt about my decision to replace full-class instruction with (almost exclusively) small-group instruction. So, another round of Google Forms went out and the data gave me a lot to think about.
When I was reviewing the feedback on the original survey, I noticed some students mentioning what one referred to as “stand-up teaching,” which I take to mean full-class instruction (standing up) in front of the class. There was some interest in having me do more “stand-up teaching,” while other students wanted more small group instruction, even while the majority of the students love the small-group approach. On the one hand, I understand where this feedback is coming from–most students experience “stand-up teaching” for the majority of their education and it’s comfortable for them. However, as I said to the students when I met with them about this feedback, the research shows us it is effective for only a very narrow band of students. After my experiences this year and last year working on reducing full-class instruction, I can’t imagine trying to teach that way again.
I was a little more confused about students asking for more small-group instruction, especially from students in my Extended (higher level) class. I have gotten this feedback from students before on Exam Wrappers, but, every time I tried to offer more opportunities for small group instruction, students in that class opted not to attend. This happened more than once. I have outright asked students what to do–you say you want more of this kind of instruction, but you don’t use it. What can I do differently?
So, I had met with individual students to talk about their feedback on exam wrappers. I had met with groups to talk about their feedback on exam wrappers. And now I was meeting with a small group of students to discuss their feedback on the survey. Maybe the third time is the charm, because we finally came up with an idea for a way for me to provide more “stand-up teaching” in student-identified small groups. The students suggested that I put together a list of topics and then students could come ask questions by topic. I countered that students should use the topic on the study guides, since my colleague and I already spend a lot of time defining and clarifying these topics and I don’t see any need to reinvent any wheels. We agreed to give it a try during the review day for the Statistics Module Assessment, a few weeks away at that time.
As the review day approached, I met with the group of students again to finalize the plan. They decided they wanted a paper way to collect information to form groups, no Google form or Padlet. One student copied down the topics from the study guide and students checked off the ones they were interested in. You can see what this looked like below.
I told students to come with specific questions, such as specific problems from Eureka, and not to expect me to either tell them details about questions on the Module Assessment nor to come up with additional questions on the spur of the moment. The response was great–as you can see on the list, two of the topics were of zero interest, so I didn’t call a group for those topics. The other three topics were high-interest and I called out each one; students could come as they wanted or not. Students brought specific problems for feedback and questions and asked for clarification.
Overall, we decided it was a successful approach that we will use again on the next Module Assessment. For me, I loved how continuing to ask the students to help me understand what they needed helped us co-construct a way to get what they wanted without having them hand off the responsibility to me. They were actively engaged in identifying what they needed, both in terms of the format and the content. I am looking forward to using this again–I suspect it will become a regular part of my practice.