Thursday, December 4, 2014

A better driver than accountability

Today I had planned a test on Chapter 3. It was supposed to be all about osmosis, the cell membrane, and all the parts of the cell--endoplasmic reticulum, golgi apparatus, lysosomes, and all that stuff. But I could tell yesterday that they were not ready. So I had two options:

  1. Tell myself it was their fault. They had not been working hard enough. They hadn't studied. They were not serious enough about this. Etc. Etc. And give them the test anyway. Let the chips fall...
  2. Acknowledge that maybe I had not provided enough time or the right experiences to help them learn the material, and postpone the test.

But there was another consideration. Some of my students had been less motivated lately. I'd noticed a bit more off-topic conversation and iPhone activity than normal. And part of me wanted to use the test to try to motivate them to try harder and use accountability as a driver. (If you've been following my blog, you can see where this is going here.)

That's when the third option occurred to me.

Give a short version of the test--a quiz, as a formative assessment, one that they would be able to retake for a better grade. I had noticed that they seemed to think they knew it all already, because they had studied the cell in middle school. This way, they could see where they stood.

So they came in today and I said all this, that I didn't think they were ready, so we'd put the test off until next week and just take a quiz today, and that they would have multiple attempts, and that they could get back to work on their cell projects when they were done.

Boom. They took the quiz, were surprised by how much they didn't know, and got right to work on their projects with renewed vigor.

When I returned a couple of projects to those students whose motivation had been waning and told them they had to revise them, they were all ears. After I clarified what I need them to do, they went right to it.

Amazing what happens when I stop worrying about holding some artificial line, stop trying to motivate with accountability, and start focusing on my students and what they need to master the subject.  

They want to master it.

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