What I learned in this class...

As a summative evaluation I asked my students the question, "What did you learning in this class?"

Photo of Mark Carlucci
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This pasted year I tried something completely different for my final summative in tech design. Rather than have a written exam or paper, I asked my students to create a presentation answering the question, "What did you learn in this class?" It was a really interesting activity.

So often I find myself busy trying to teach lessons, answer questions, and get my students on task, that I forget to really get to know all the students. Especially in respect to their thoughts and feelings on how they are progressing in my class. I try to get to them all, but sometimes those quiet kids sneak by me.

Listening to the presentations was a great way to see what the students understood. You can tell who got the underlying concepts and who just knew the superficial stuff. I let the kids be honest, and they spoke of what they liked and what they didn't like. What I could add or take away.

I loved seeing things from their perspective. They see things very differently when compared not only to what I see, but their classmates as well.

For example, we did a month long project where the students created siege weapons (ballistas and over-sized slingshots) in groups. I had one student that often came in late (2+ times a week), and, in both mine and his team leaders opinions, didn't participate all that much.

While reflecting during his presentation, that student was very positive about his participation and contribution to the group/project. He felt he made a significant contribution.

At first I thought, "He is just saying that to get the marks." But as a listened to the rest of his presentation and thought about it, I realized he was being honest.

For that student, what I saw as a small, was a big effort. His view was so different from mine. Normally, I would have given him a low mark for little effort, but I didn't. I took into account his expectations and modified my own.

Or sometimes the off-hand comments or non-curricular stuff are what really hit a student. On the second day I commented that we need more women in tech after a girl switched out of my class. One girl really took note of that and spent sometime talking about it during her presentation. It is important, but not something I thought of as something anyone would take away from my class, especially being said off-hand.

Next semester I will be doing this activity on a regular basis, and taking the opportunity to work on modifying both my expectations and those of my students.

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Photo of Bob

A simple but powerful question! A good reminder that one does not have to create in-depth class evaluations to learn what students have gained from our classes. Thank you for sharing the story about your student and your changing perception of him. And the one about your offhand comment about girls in technology. Even when particular students don't seem like they are listening (or learning!) they are, and every comment (positive or negative) can be truly impactful.

Photo of Mark

So true. Sometimes we focus so much of whether or no they got the curriculum, that we forget they may have picked up something else from us.

Perhaps "offhand comments" can be used as a tool. If we can strategically use them, maybe they can have a big impact.

I have found that a number of my students want to know about me in a personal sense. They feel more comfortable knowing about my personal life than the "boring" material I am teaching.

I often get questions like, "Are you married?" "Do you have kids?" "What do you do after school?" "Do you like your job?"

Some students may pick up more from those offhand comments than anything, because those offhand comments are more reflective of you, personally.

Could one prepare some remarks (or general ideas for remarks) to illustrate the creative and innovative person you actually are. I find that I often try to keep my personal and professional lives separate, but maybe integrating a little more of my personal life into my classroom may encourage those "offhand remark" students.