Saturday, May 2, 2015

The clinical classroom

I've noticed something cool since I started keeping track of engagement in my differentiated bio class: I'm able to view the whole thing more objectively, take it less personally when things go wrong, and see more clearly what works, what doesn't and what and how I need to change (I hope).

A few times during each class, I just walk around, a scientist with his clipboard, and note how many students are actively engaged in working on their projects, reading, writing, or discussing content.

As a scientist, I often see the world in terms of variables and data, but it's funny I never looked at my classroom like that until now.

My goal is to start doing controlled experiments, changing one variable at a time to see how it affects engagement. I know this is a tall order: I can't control all of the important variables (home life, events outside of school, in other classes, etc.), but I hope I can get some good info anyway.

On tap for this week: First, a much cooler project than last week. Let's see if it changes engagement. Secondly, I'm going to try getting more data than just counts of students who are working. Instead of just writing a check-mark if they're working at all, I'm going to use a version of my engagement scale:

1. Students watching a video (I give only brief lectures, but I post instructional videos on our Moodle site).

2. Students reading their text.

3. Students researching online, typing an essay, or drawing a poster.

4. Students discussing the project with classmates.

5. Students researching online, typing an essay, or drawing a poster AND discussing with classmates.

(I was discussing the measurement of engagement with a colleague this week, and we wondered how our flipped classrooms would compare with a traditional teacher-led, whole-class instruction classroom if we used a scale like this.)

My idea is to just record all of the numbers and the total score.

The next step is to track it for individual students, but that would take more time, I think. I'm trying to keep this minimal so it doesn't take away significantly from my teaching.

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