The Inverse Power of Praise

     I decided to share this concept with some of my students because I remember how powerfully it struck me.  Praising kids can have a negative effect on their intellectual performance and motivation as they grow older.  Why did this strike such a reaction in me?  As a teacher I thought of all the times I had simply said "good job" or something similar on a task as if the task were over, and there was no more learning to be gained.  I wondered if I had inadvertently fed into what my students already believed about themselves--that they were either smart or dumb, and that was it.  I started reflecting on what I thought about learning.  I started changing how I responded to my students, mostly honors classes at the time.  These were students who had most likely had been told they were really smart for most of their lives.  I started praising their efforts, the small victories they made, particularly in their writing instead of making general comments of praise that weren't really helpful and did not refer to the process of learning.  I tried to shift the focus in my classroom to the process instead of just the outcome.  I can't really know what sort of difference it might have made.  I can only hope that it helped in a small way.  I am grateful to have read Po Bronson's book, Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children, in which "The Inverse Power of Praise" is a chapter.  At the very least it got me thinking, and at its best, it made me a better teacher.
   For my students I was hoping they would reflect on their own upbringings or consider how they speak to their own children or younger siblings or other relatives.  And reading the article did cause a lot of reflection.  A side benefit was that many of them realized how important their words can be, a definite win in an English class.

How To Survive (and Thrive In!) A Hybrid Class!

 

My idea of surviving a hybrid class, once you’ve figured out you cannot possibly deliver all your fine course lectures and lessons and assignments in less than half the physical class time, is to develop your hybrid course FIRST as an online course.  This means developing and/or capturing discussions, assignments, quizzes, videos, lectures, so forth – everything you would normally teach over the normal course session (and more) in a F2F environment.

Instead of restricting instruction in any way, I’ve found that developing the hybrid course as an online course on Canvas FIRST is “freeing.” Doing so allows me to concentrate more on how to make the hybrid class sessions, the hour-and- fifteen-minute weekly meetings, that much more interactive and engaging for students.  Plus, no matter what we manage to get through in our weekly session, I can rest assured that all students have all the information and tools they need to succeed the next week.

My course content, then, is already captured and available online.  So what do my hybrid class sessions look like?

  • I start by putting a summary lesson plan on the board (attendance, questions, last week/this week, other keywords for my own use as well as theirs to “follow along”).
  • I draw my “peace symbol” on the board (three-part agenda: “yours,” “mine” and “ours” – your questions to me, my questions to students, our questions and comments for each other).
  • I make students write the titles, identifiers (ASSIGN1-2, ASSIGN3-4), and due dates of “Assignments Last Week” and “Assignments This Week” (in summary chart form) on the board (this gets students up and moving around and already engaged in a fail-safe environment – sets a good tone and precedent, and echos the theme that this class is in large part their responsibility).
  • I’ll typically ask student volunteers to write examples from the past week’s assignments on the board to prompt discussion and reinforce concepts.
  • I’ll give a five- to ten-minute lecture, occasionally, on this week’s module or key concept(s) – and/or on something I saw in their work that needs more reinforcement and/or needs to be headed off at the pass.
  • I’ll typically ask student volunteers to write examples for upcoming assignments on the board to prompt more discussion – for instance, ideas for their narrative or comparative essays, or their thesis statements, or…or…wherever we are in the process.
  • Whenever possible, I’ll let student volunteers demonstrate some of the technology points as well (Where are our grades at? How do I sign up for Connect?). They like talking from the “teacher’s” computer up front, though often we also help each other back and forth at their seats (I wander around a lot).
  • I reserve the last 10-15 minutes, typically, for any individual questions or one-on-one time needed by students that don’t feel comfortable asking questions in front of the group.

This method contains very little information-dumping — but it has a lot of information application and information sharing.  It is much closer to coaching and facilitating than traditional lecture-based teaching.  WARNING: This is a loud, fast, often all-over-the-map, very interactive session. It can be mentally and physically exhausting.  But it can also be participatory, engaging, stimulating, sometimes exhilarating, and, dare I say it, more effective?

I tell students at the first class that to me, hybrid classes are online classes with a once-a-week support/therapy session.  I’d be hard pressed most weeks to say who benefitted more – me or my students.

Sincerity is best

 

I learned to be sincere in my teaching when I was teaching at Mesa Community College. I am not good at “edutainment” teaching, I tend to be quite straight forward in my approach, and I thought that students would not like me as an instructor because I was not very exciting. In my second year of teaching at Mesa, I was awarded a Teacher of the Year award. I wondered why, and one of the student that nominated me told me the reason was because I cared about their learning. She said that it was clear that I cared, and that the caring was what mattered, not the “smoke and mirrors” and dazzling effects. I have always remembered to be sincere in my caring and approach, and let the rest take care of itself.

Walk 1-2

 

As a teacher of five hybrid sections, I’m trying to make my feedback comments friendly and focused.  These are some of the comments I’ve given  in response to their first content-based Discussion:

You have your first absence for not submitting a Discussion posting on time. Please see me so that I can help you be successful in our hybrid format.

You will earn full credit by responding to two of your classmates. Remember that your participation in Discussion is part of attendance in a hybrid course.

I like how you participated in the Discussion over several days!

Your response format really captures the K-W-L, Randy.  Here’s another strategy for your chart!

Do you have any suggestions for me?

Walk 1-1

 

What an exciting project!  I’m happy to be part of this.

This is my teaching philosophy:

“If students can’t learn the way we teach, then we must teach the way they learn.” 
adapted from Ignacio Estrada
Lori Walk
Education and Reading Faculty
5-3751
HT2-113

 

Frequent Assessment

This post is about how changing from chapter tests (one test roughly every 3 weeks) to weekly quizzes dramatically changed the success rates of my students.

I used college algebra students as my guinea pigs. When I looked at my students from fall 96 through fall 98, I saw that they had a 50% chance of passing, 10% chance of a D or F and a 40% chance of withdrawing. Not being happy with these statistics I began a conversation with my wife who taught 2nd grade. She said “Test them more!” So, being a good husband, I complied. Starting in Fall 99 through Fall 2004 I gathered data on how my college algebra students did when I switched from 6 chapter tests and a final to, 13 weekly quizzes a midterm and a final. The results were that now 78% were passing, 7% were receiving a D or F and 15% were withdrawing. Also, I gave the same final that I gave from Fall 96-98 and the scores on my comprehensive final were the same, at around 73% average.

Therefore, I encourage all of you who teach to consider more frequent assessment. There is also a byproduct that I hadn’t anticipated besides the better success rate. That was, that I found that grading smaller tests once a week was not as daunting as looking at a pill of large tests every 3rd week. Grading isn’t as disliked by me as it once was.

Give this a try and as the ad said many many years ago “Mikey Likes It!”

 


When life gives you lemons, take a walk??

stephanieThis is a guest post from faculty member Stephanie Sawyer, M.S. | Fitness and Wellness. Last week was tough for many of us, and Stephanie had a great way to handle it.

I wrote a PAR blog about yesterday’s Canvas situation. I shared it with one of my mentors, Louise So, and she thought you would get a kick out of it. When life gives you lemons, take a walk?? Enjoy! Stephanie

After my refreshing quarter-mile walk from the parking lot to my office (I know this because my I-Runner app calculated the distance), I was greeted with a district-wide message stating that Canvas was down. Not believing that such a thing was possible, I logged into Canvas to find that it was true. I didn’t panic at first because the class in Canvas that I needed to access didn’t occur until the evening, still several hours away.

However, as the hours passed while I went about my day teaching other classes, the panic started to set in. I kept thinking that it was just a matter of time before Canvas was restored. Unfortunately, that was not the case as I was now two hours away from a two-and-a-half-hour night class. I needed access to two power-point presentations, a Discussion Board activity, and an interactive, web-based activity, which were all on Canvas. I can “song and dance” a class as well as any of my colleagues, but two-and-a-half-hours is a little long.

As I started looking for my power-points on my office computer, I realized that they were on my home computer since I had created them before becoming full-time faculty and having an office computer. Therefore, I had to hike another quarter-mile back to my car, drive home and e-mail myself the power-points from my home computer. This event took about an hour in all. In addition, I had to run to the copy center and print out copies of everything that was on Canvas.

I am happy to report that I made it to class on time, had all of my materials on hand and accumulated over 14,000 steps for the day. The lesson learned was to not always rely on technology, to have a backup plan and make sure that there are master copies to retrieve in a pinch.


Week of Accountability ’15 Teaching Tip: What just happened?

     At the beginning of most class periods, I had out a small sheet of scrap paper to every student.  It's about 1/4 of an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper.  At the beginning of the semester they always ask, "What's this for?"  As we get farther on, they stop asking, they might groan, or if I do not give them one that day, they may ask for one!  In the last few minutes of class, I always ask students to write something for me:
1.  something they learned
2.  something that is not clear
3.  a question
4.  the topic they are writing on
5.  a working thesis
6.  the title of a good source they found
7.  a short rhetorical analysis
    This could be anything, and it can serve several purposes: to keep them engaged for what's coming up, as formative assessment, as communication between us (often I respond and pass it back the next class period). Students who do not like to raise a hand in class feel heard and get questions answered.  It's a quick way for me to see what they get, the direction in which they are going, and to know which students may need extra visiting during the next class.

Get Your Kicks With Write 6×6