Friday, May 1, 2015

A 38% Day

Today was a 38% (engagement) day in biology.

My average up until today was 59%, though I didn't measure it two days this week because we were doing the pGLO lab, because it was so intense it took all of my attention to help the students with the lab. (I wish I had measured engagement, though: My guess is it was higher than 60%)

But I have a few hypotheses for why today in biology was so low:

1. Clarity: The pGLO lab was engaging. Doing real genetic enginnering on bacteri to make them glow is wild. But the packet they had to complete afterwards was downright confusing. They all got hung up on the same ambiguous questions, and this stalled them. Many were still working through this packet today.
The pGlo lab--genetically engineered bacteria
we made earlier this week.

2. Curriculum: Those that had completed the pGLO packet had to work on their Assignment 23. I knew going into this that Assignment 23 was going to be rough. I put 2 chapters worth of concepts into one project, in a misguided effort to gain some ground in the curriculum.The result was a difficult and awkward assignment that they are still struggling with. The packet option was way too long.

3. Clarity: I adjusted Assignment 23 earlier this week, having already seen the problem. I gave them a highly scaffolded project option and also the option of just doing the videos and quizzes instead of the project. But in this effort to assuage their fears about the assignment, I think I overshot. Some got the impression that there wasn't much to do for 23, and so they relaxed too much. Again, a lack of clarity was the problem.

4. Time of year: We're in the 4th quarter, after all, and burnout becomes an issue for teachers and students. I measured engagement in my two honors chemistry classes one day this week: 50% (they were working on problem sets) and 53% (working on a lab).

So, in short, I was not surprised at the dip in engagement today. The question is, what to do about it.

My plan:

1. Grade the pGLO lab with a rubric looking for general understanding rather than scoring each answer for correctness. Lesson learned: Make sure questions are clear--rewrite pre-packaged materials.

2. Not much I can do about 23 at this point, but in the future, don't succumb to the pressure to ram content through just to keep up with the curriculum. It's just not worth it if it kills engagement. Definitely need to cut some slack when scoring 23.

3.  Make sure Assignment 24 is clearer and more meaningful, and bites off less content. I think I've got this covered.

4. Plan for end of year slump by making assignments even more engaging. :-)

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