As the year winds down, my experiment in creating a personalized Computer Applications class came to an end. Almost every student was gracious enough to fill out a reflection/course evaluation at the end, and they provided some excellent feedback!
Starting with what went well, I like using numbers to back up my case. Here is a summary of the students' thoughts on this course as a preference over other styles:
Rougly 2/3rds of all students preferred learning this way, while almost the other third thought it was okay and could be better. Having complete support would be awesome, and it is those two that didn't enjoy it that will drive me the most. However, getting 14 students to prefer this type of class given the amount of work they ended up doing makes me feel good.
I also made some adjustments to the assessment at the end. There were 50 required standards, with another 25 "Challenge Standards" that were extra and weren't required. In addition, if students brought up a skill they could show, I would occasionally add "Choice Standards" to the list. Because of a shorter term and end of the year stuff taking up days, I ended up grading based on 47 standards. Out of 26 students, 17 had A's, with many of those over and above the required amount of standards completed. 5 students had either a D or an F. The average amount of standards completed per student was 43, good enough for an A-. Compared to a typical term, I had a lot more C's, D's, and F's than I've had in the past. However, I feel very confident that because each student needed to prove mastery of the material and put it on a Google site, what they did they will certainly retain more than in the past.
The feedback was generally positive, with a few great comments such as the answer of "not working" to things they liked about the class, and "working" to things they liked the least. However, the comment that will keep me driving to improve this course and make myself better overall was "For you to listen to your students and help them first hand not walk away for them to figure it out by themselves." That comment really hit me. I do believe this this format gave me more time to interact and help students one on one. I think a lot of the struggles came from students not wanting to watch the instruction tutorials, and instead were relying on what they thought they knew, and on me. I clearly wanted to instill a sense of self-learning and motivation in my students. However, I also need to be more sensitive, and make students feel helped when they need it. This student was clearly not served well by me, and this will serve as a great reminder of how hard I still need to work to be great.
I could go all day about this class and what I learned. Students offered great suggestions for future improvement. Especially important will be two things - 1: group activities to mix things up, and 2: constant changing and updating of my teaching tutorials and class requirements. After running this class personalized, I can't go back. I know the students that struggled/didn't like the format would have been even more disenfranchised in the previous model. However, this is still very much a work in progress. A more structured approach does need to be implemented for the students that need it. This course will improve. It will get better. Students will benefit greatly from this class model. These things I know to be true. Can't wait to see how version two goes in the fall!