Thursday, July 1, 2010

Today's Take-out from the Opinion Drive-thru

Today, I'm sharing quotes form three of my go-to sources:

"We say we want our kids to be problem solvers, but all too often, when faced with the challenges of a changing educational landscape, we don’t offer solutions. Instead, we offer excuses as to why we shouldn’t solve the problem, why it’s better to just keep on keepin’ on. And solving these problems is getting easier and easier, actually, as more and more schools have already done the heavy lifting to find and implement solutions. It’s not like anyone needs to reinvent the wheel any more. And it’s also not like you need a solution overnight, either. Frame the problem, create a timeline and a process, and have at it. If you had say, two years, is there really NO way to solve that access problem?"

(About homework) "The key is in having kids do things outside of class that will complement or drive things within class; problem is that too often homework not only fails to do this, but in fact instills bad habits and resentment towards school in general. As the school-day itself is gradually redefined over the course of the next decade, I do think however that our concept of what exactly homework is will change."

"Many leaders pride themselves on setting high-level direction: I'll set the vision and stay out of the details. It is true that a compelling vision is critical . . . . But it is no enough. Big-picture, hands off leadership isn't likely to work in a change situation, because the hardest part of the change-- the paralyzing part-- is precisely in the details."

"Take Out" with generous permission of americanvirus


Ann Lusch said...

Homework is an important topic for me, and I continue to evaluate what I give in consideration of my time as well as that of the students.

One thing I ask is for students to come to class having read the textbook, but it seems more and more that it's the kind of assignment that goes to the bottom of the nightly priority list for students, unless there is some kind of assignment or quiz attached.

I don't really want to give more quizzes or assignments. Sometimes I would just like them to read, and I am wondering if it is too much to ask of students who are preparing for college. Any insights to share?

Larry Baker said...

Thanks, Ann. I am very focused on this issue and had several conversations about it through the spring. We agree that so much copying of homework or ignoring of homework that doesn't "count" is symptomatic of major issues in our school culture and in 21st century at large.

They want to shift our curriculum in the directions of project learning and CBL in particular. As I've posted before, this renders many of these issues, moot.

In my own classroom, I am shifting my models of assessment, hoping that students focus more on final outcomes that they buy into rather than just playing the "game." I have written a blog about this for July 8 (holding it until after the holiday, hoping more folks would read it-- Thanks for reading this one!). Here's a sneak preview of what I'll be posting:

Ann Lusch said...

One thing that is notable about the docs you shared is grading projects with pass/fail. That would make grading so much easier!

Have you done this yet? Did you find it to have an effect, for better or for worse on the quality of the students' work? According to the theories about motivation, it would be "for better."

Larry Baker said...

No. . . Haven't tried this at all yet. I'm hoping pass/fail will take the focus off "points". But w'll see. It will give me plenty to blog about in the Fall!

Tracie said...

I have been having the same conversations with colleagues about students cheating on/not doing homework. The solutions I've heard so far at work have been largely punitive -- as in "catching" them with pop quizzes and the like. I am not sure that this is going to change the students' attitude about homework. And, frankly, I'm with you Ann -- I don't want to make more work for myself by dreaming up quizzes that are quick and easy to grade just so students do what I've asked in the first place.
I am hoping to use some of the techie tricks I've learned this summer to redefine homework for my students. It isn't punching a clock or just a collection of points to earn a grade (that really doesn't reflect much about their learning). Way too many students approach me at the end of the semester wishing to pull up their grade by completing an easy assignment, but the actual learning is not a priority.
I am interested in the pass/fail grading, also. I wonder what to do about distinguishing students who really excelled on a project from kids who met the minimum.
Two of my friends who teach chemistry at my school have developed a really cool points system where students pick from a list of assignments, labs, and projects and must demonstrate their understanding of each (by walking the teacher through their work) before the teachers will sign off and let them complete another. The students must complete all of their work for a unit by a certain date and my friends basically look for their signatures to assign the points for the unit. Since all of their lectures have been turned into podcasts, class time has now become available to the teachers to individually coach students through the learning, and students are responsible for getting the information even if they are absent. They are reporting great success in transitioning students from "doing" to learning with this method. In fact, they have many more students choosing to do extra assignments on the list to improve their understanding. This method may be a bit easier to do in chemistry, where the problems are more formulaic, but I think it could be adapted for other courses.
They will be presenting this strategy at the Colorado Biology Teachers Association conference that we are putting together for this fall.

WillKnott said...

I rarely gave nightly homework--mostly long term reading assignments and in class essay exams. Of course for formal essay writing, I demanded outlines, etc, in advance.

I have to say that I never had trouble with kids reading assigned novels, etc. because I counted the reading exams so heavily. EX: not only would your score bring down your average, but if you didn't score at least 50% for the reading exam, you would not do the writing for that unit and receive zero points. 99% of the time, that worked.

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