My goal last year had been to continue working on “Consolidate” and that became even more important as we shifted to eLearning in second semester because it was harder to keep students engaged and focused in an asynchronous online learning environment. A particular focus was creating graphic organizers and checklists for every major task in English 9. The writing organizers have helped students to know what content to include as they consolidate their thinking in summative assessments, while also giving them frameworks for structuring their arguments and interpretations. It has been useful for students to see the rubrics broken down in checklist form so that they can be reminded of what needs to happen in their performance to show “a good understanding of the cartoon’s purpose/message, intended audience, and situation/context” (English 9 Editorial Cartoon Presentation rubric) or if they “employed a range of persuasive rhetoric, techniques, and key stylistic features of the chosen text type, with a good understanding of their effects on the reader/audience” (English 9 Persuasive Summative rubric). According to DX survey feedback on March 30th, 14 out of 20 respondents said that these handouts (organizers, checklists, task sheets) were helpful for their learning.
But, in addition to the kinds of problems outlined by Alfie Kohn in “The Trouble with Rubrics” (https://www.alfiekohn.org/article/trouble-rubrics/), for students new to high school and English class (the ISB Middle School combines English and Humanities as a single course), rubrics, organizers, checklists, and task sheets do not provide enough guidance to students about what they should be doing in order to be successful:
This gap between having a rubric (and all the ensuing explanations of the criteria) and really knowing what the final product could or should look like was also reflected in the same March 30th survey, where 14 out of 20 students felt that real-life student exemplars of good work were helpful (and about half of these respondents preferred student examples over the explanatory handouts). Because students are novices, it is very difficult for them to conceptualize what they’re supposed to be doing:
Not only ignorant beginners, but poor performers especially struggle to recognize their incompetence so feedback and modeling is critical for learning and improvement.
I’ve come to the conclusion that Clarify and Consolidation are the only “C”s that mean students actually learned something in your class and Consolidation is the one that reflects deeper learning: if the student has consolidated, they can think coherently and knowledgeably about the content and apply the skills they have internalized. The other 5 Cs are about student engagement in the learning process, which is essential—but just because students are actively engaged and trust you, doesn’t mean that they’re learning the course content.
The back of my mind has spent the whole summer break thinking about what I’d like to do better this year and most problematic about eLearning last spring was the amount and regularity of various kinds of formal and informal feedback to students because of the asynchronous online learning environment—and feedback really matters: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.3102/003465430298487
It’s not just feedback from teacher/peer/self, but being able to quickly check in on HOW students are acting on the feedback to make sure that they’re on the right track and to support them socioemotionally:
When I started to list all the ways that students received feedback during regular school on campus vs. eLearning, in order to figure out what I wanted to prioritize and how, online learning was in no way comparable, especially for potentially-unmotivated novices.
Fortunately, I am here in Beijing and the majority of my students will be physically present, so this planner is a draft of the ways I am thinking about how I could adjust my teaching for an online or hybrid environment, if it becomes necessary: