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Final Report Anne Smith

 

 

 

 

 

The Art of Possibility: Creating More Successful Learners

 

Long rows of standardized desks, students trudging into class painfully uninterested and disengaged waiting for the sound of the bell to signal the end of another seemingly purposeless hour.  Hour to hour, class to class, worksheet after worksheet, standardized multiple choice exam after exam, the teacher plans out carefully constructed lessons of lecture distributing her wealth of knowledge to unreceptive vessels.  Lecture after lecture the students disengage when school is supposed to exist for them.  Why are these students not retaining the information? Why aren’t these students reciting back all the knowledge they have been fed from chalkboard note-taking sessions and study guide completions?  Why do these students accept less from themselves, their classroom, and their teacher than they deserve?

 

A teacher can see behind the stone facade that masks student potential. How does a teacher unlock the masterpiece that lies within each and every student?  How does a teacher engage her students to want more, to know more, to be more?  Students in a traditional educational setting struggle to find their place in the world of learning.  Education seems something more done to them than they are a part of the design and implementation of their learning.  Students should be more than receptacles of information teachers fill up and pass along from class to class, hour to hour.  Students who are valued, encouraged, motivated and who have high expectations set for them achieve. Too often as educators, we allow students to slip through the cracks disappearing behind layers and layers of paint covering who they really are.  Teachers do not expose the original work of art that lies beneath the facade.  Students need to be collaborators in their learning working with their teacher and peers to change the picture of education. Students need to expect more from themselves than they have done previously raising the standard of achievement and learning.  No more should a student desire to just finish a product, but instead produce a creative and interesting new way to demonstrate their understanding. Teachers should work together with their students. By engaging their students in meaningful, relevant real world projects, teachers are communicating a larger message to all the learning matters.  By assigning projects that must be completed on time and only see one version, teachers are halting the learning process. Instead, teachers and students should be engaged in learning as a process with multiple revisions of student work and reflection on the learning process throughout.  Then, learning becomes the focus, not simple completion. 

 

Students must be held to a higher level of expectation, be participants and leaders in constructivist learning environment collaborating with their teacher and peers, revising piece after piece thus moving from blank canvases to wonderful masterpieces of art.

 

CLASSROOM LEARNING COMMUNITY

Field of work:

Arapahoe High School is one of three high schools located in Centennial, Colorado part of Littleton Public Schools.  We have always been the dominant high school in our district as well as a leader in the state regarding state and national testing.  Our college remediation rate, which measures the student’s preparedness for college level classes, is one of the lowest in the state.  About 92-94 % of our graduating seniors go on to college.  We are an open enrollment school with two feeder middle schools.  A number of our students come from these two feeder schools, but we do have a good percentage of open-enrolled kids as well.  Students are open-enrolled based on a letter they write to our principal, previous academic achievement, and possibly an interview.  We have a school that is primarily Caucasian, suburban, and upper middle class.

Most ninth grade English classes have around 30 kids. For freshmen, we offer Humanities classes, regular ninth grade comprehensive English as well as Honors.  We are also offering some single gender classes.  There are two 1-1 English classes at AHS. The ninth grade class as a whole usually numbers around 500-550.  Our curriculum is undergoing some revision aiming for more alignment towards essential learnings defined at each grade level rather than a large curricular approach.  Personal Learning Communities is an additional focus in our school district.  The aim is to give teachers more time to examine current practices, create common assessments, and ultimately, ensure that all our students are receiving the same education.  We have been participants in a massive staff development effort examining how kids learn best and how technology can support that learning. 

Our administrative staff is led by our veteran principal Ron Booth who has hired over 98% of the teachers at our school. He has been the principal over 20 years.  His administrative staff consists of 5 assistant principals all with various levels of experience.  The teachers in the English department in which I teach vary in their experience from 30 years to 3 years.  I am considered a veteran teacher in my department and in the school with this being my 11th year. 

We have a tremendous community support.  At our school, both parents usually work and many have received their Masters degrees. The parents are mostly upper middle class with strong ties to the community.  Many parents volunteer at the school or support their child in extra curricular activities.  Well over half of our students participate in extra-curricular activities. 

However, even with all these advantages present in our students’ lives, we still have a number of students who chose not to invest in learning.  There are a small number of students who do the minimum and get through with D's and C's on their report cards.

LITERATURE REVIEW

The Art of Possibility

Michelango is often quoted as having said that inside every block of stone lies a beautiful statue (Zander and Zander, 2000, p26).  In our current educational system, many students are viewed not as beautiful statues but rather simply as blocks that are unwilling to change.  The industrial model of education has received the brunt of the blame being cast on all sides from teachers, to students, to legislatures and the larger community.  Rather than focusing on assigning more blame, many researchers suggest what is needed is a shift in conceptualizing student learning and motivations in order to create learning environments that are beneficial for all parties. (The Alliance for Excellent Education , 2008;Tapola & Niemivirta  2008; Jones, 2008; Khamois, Dukmak & Elhoweris, 2008; Vansteenkiste, Timmermans, Lens, Soenens, & Van den Broeck ,2008). This review of these studies will examine the modifications necessary to transform our traditional classrooms by focusing on reshaping the classroom environment, recasting the role of a teacher and his/her instruction, and increasing student motivation.  By creating student centered classrooms where teachers deliver personalized instruction, there is evidence that students are more motivated to learn and be successful thus revealing the possibility that lies within every stone.

Reshaping the Classroom

            Classrooms have not changed much if at all over the last one hundred years. Students still sit at desks, are expected to listen to their teachers, and at the end of the day go home and do the work assigned to them.  There are few notable differences in a 1920’s classroom and the classroom of today.  This is a grave concern of many of today’s educators.  The Alliance for Excellent Education has put forth their recommendations about the adaptations necessary for our outdated education model to move forward in order to create classrooms by and for the students.  MDRC, a national research organization that focuses on educational and social policy research, sited that one of the most challenging aspects of underperforming school is that their learning environments lack personalization and are unconcerned with preparing students for their future beyond school (MDRC, 2009)(Alliance for Excellent Education, 2008).  Linda DarlingHammond claims that impersonalized classrooms and lack of preparation are exactly why these schools are failing and why we need to create classrooms that are more personalized with teachers working in tandem with students in a supportive nurturing environment (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2008). Schools need to be transformed into “… personal, motivational, aspirational, challenging exciting places for students to learn and operate in a supportive system” (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2008,p.23).

If students see the learning environment as a safe place, where they are given personalized attention, as well as encouragement to try more, students will be more motivated to learn and be successful (Tapola & Niemivirta, 2008). Tapola and Niemivirta support this claim through their research into the field of student motivation in connection with classroom environments.  In their study of 208 sixth grader’s student goal profiles, motivations, and student preferences, they found that student achievement and motivation are dependent upon the classroom environment. Thus, their research indicates a need for our classrooms need to look dramatically different to meet each and every student’s needs; possibly leading to a more differentiated model of instruction for a personalized learning environment. 

Personalized learning does not mean, however, that standards are lowered. In fact, the Alliance asserts that standards of rigor must be maintained. With the emergence of technology in these rigorous learning environments, classrooms that are more student-centered indicate a greater ability to meeting students’ needs in a much more diverse way.  Technology can assist in meeting students’ diverse individual learning needs by providing a multitude of methods for students to demonstrate their learning and understanding.  Students do not have to be limited anymore to pen and paper, but can demonstrate their understandings through PowerPoint, Voicethread, PhotoStory, etc.  Also, through these technological innovations, schools can provide a much more diverse curriculum to their students (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2008). It will not matter anymore if a student is physically in your classroom. Students can attend classes wherever they desire as long as the technology is available via webcams, videos, and collaborative learning tools.  Students are able to be members of personalized learning environments at Colorado, Stanford, MIT, etc..., learning about subjects that are relevant and meaningful to them. Additionally, students in these new technologically enabled classrooms will potentially have their needs met more efficiently and effectively because teachers will have the ability to access current data about how students learn best, and have the tools available to meet each student’s diverse needs.  Through the assistance of the teachers and students, these classrooms can shift to a more student centered learning environment.

Recasting the Role of the Teacher

Just as classrooms have not changed much in the past one hundred years, teaching has not adapted much to the technological evolutions of our society either.  Although much research has been done in the areas of student learning and effective teaching, teachers have been resistant to that change because of the uncertainty of what changes will be most effective in the future, of teachers changing themselves, and the importance of technology in this change.   Why and what can be done about it?  As previously stated, by changing the classroom environment to a more student centered learning environment, the role of the teacher must adapt as well, “Teachers have the single greatest in-school impact on student achievement…” (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2008, p. 36). And directly following from this, there needs to be a shift in teacher preparation as well as teacher evaluation.  The Alliance also suggested a shift in the conversation from “highly qualified” to “highly effective” teachers. 

Jones’ (2008) work in the area of out of class support strengthens this argument. In his research of 594 graduate students that were assigned to one of six hypothetical situations, students responded better in stressful situations with teachers who were highly supportive offering out of class as well as in class support.  Students who saw their teachers creating personal connections with them were more motivated.  Jones writes,

“… this finding provides further evidence that student state motivation  is a modifiable condition that teachers can influence not only with the messages and behaviors they use inside the classroom, but those outside the classroom as well…when a student experiences stress and seeks assistance from a teacher outside the classroom setting, an opportunity emerges for the teacher to provide OCS (out of class support) which ultimately will lead to an increase in the student’s state of motivation” (Jones, 2008 p. 382).

Teachers who increase student motivation create students who are motivated to succeed and feel successful.  This can occur through teachers taking the time to develop more personalized instruction in a collaborative, student centered classroom. With the emergence of technology in classrooms, this shift is easily obtainable, and through constant learning and reflection by teachers and students, the shift can occur.  Teachers, however, cannot be expected to do it alone. Instead, many researchers are calling for a focus by learning communities in schools where teachers support each others learning by examining best practices in order to meet all students’ needs (Riel, M. & Fulton K., 2001). There is evidence that teachers should not lower their expectations, but maintain the demands, rigor, and relevance in each student’s education (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2008, p. 32). Compare this with the position of Tapola and Niemivirta (2008), who support the idea of giving students difficult and challenging work, as well as the previous claim concerning personalized instruction. Tapola and Niemivirta also found that when students received personal encouragement from their instructor and choices in their learning, they were much more motivated to learn.  Their study also indicated that students who received individualized instruction respond better to more challenging material. Tapola and Niemivirta are quick to indicate that they are not advocating “…that the learning environment should be arranged to each student’s preferences, but that more attention should be paid to the reasons that underlie students’ different perceptions and preferences” (Tapola & Niemivirta, 2008, p.305). Overall, when teachers create connections and take a personal interest in their students, students are more motivated to be successful.  This can occur through shared values and goals by creating a collaborative, student centered learning environment where teachers and students work together.

 Khamis, Dukmak, and Elhoweris  (2008) cite the example in their research that teachers have a direct effect on student motivation to learn in every aspect of the student’s learning  “ indeed most students respond positively to a well organised course taught by an enthusiastic instructor” (Khamis, Dukmak, & Elhoweris, July 2008,p.192). From the classroom arrangement, to the lessons planned, the implementation of the lesson, the teacher’s personal teaching style and classroom interaction, all contribute to a student’s success in the learning environment.  Additionally, they indicate that teachers need to increase student motivation through frequent feedback, using a variety of teaching strategies and creating relevance for their students. Clearly, the interaction between a teacher and student is an important bond to facilitate so that students are more motivated to learn.

Student Motivation

Although student motivation has been shown to result from a wide variety of sources such as teachers, peers, or learning environment, one of the most significant factors is a student’s own motivation to succeed. Some studies point to the importance of intrinsic motivation that students are often lacking.  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the theorist who created the concept of “flow,” to describe the process of creative work shared some extensions of his ideas into education.

“It is not that students cannot learn, it is that they do not wish to…if educators invested a fraction of the energy on stimulating the students’ enjoyment of learning that they now spend in trying to transmit information we could achieve much better results” (Csikszentmihalyi, 1991, p. 1). 

Csikszentmihalyi suggests that the blame lies more in the lap of the educator than in the student.  He also continues that when the educational experience is intrinsically rewarding, students are more engaged and thus more motivated to learn.  Csikszentmihalyi suggests two directions for creating more engaging work for students: (1) clearly communicate to the students the reasons we learn to read, write, and (2) show students how fun learning can be (Csikszentmihalyi, 1991).  Through these two directions, students will be more engaged, motivated learners. 

Vansteenkiste’s research study extends these thoughts by showing the value of intrinsic motivation in students.  His research indicates that students who are intrinsically motivated for self-development are more likely to attempt challenging activities and tasks. The study also found that when classroom goals are framed with and for students in an intrinsic manner, the student’s conceptual learning, performance, and persistence was enhanced.  In order to motivate students to learn, the teacher and student must work together to meet the needs of the student (Vansteenkiste, Timmermans, Lens, Soenens, & Van den Broeck, 2008).   Khamis and colleagues also support teacher-student collaboration through their research which indicates that students’ conceptions about their learning, along with their relationship with their teacher, were indicators to a student’s motivation towards learning.  Also, they further supported the claim that students and teachers must do this together, “it is crucial for (teachers) and school administrators to devote themselves fully to engendering and maintaining student’s motivation to learn” (Khamis, Dukmak, & Elhoweris, July 2008 p.199).  With teachers and students working together in a symbiotic relationship, even students who are academically behind can be successful if given the opportunity to be an engaged learner in a personalized way (Alliance for Excellent Education, 2008). With students feeling positive and motivated in the classroom, and with their learning needs met, the education system as a whole benefits. By meeting the students’ needs, the teacher is able to provide a more challenging and rigorous learning experience for the student, allowing for him/her to grow as a learner, which in turn allows for the teacher to grow in their profession as well.

In conclusion, the evidence suggests that creating student centered classrooms where teachers deliver personalized instruction may very well lead to students who are more motivated to learn, and in turn be more likely to attain future success.   This review of studies examined the changes necessary to transform traditional classrooms by changing the classroom environment, reinventing the role of a teacher and his/her instruction, and increasing student motivation.  Although each of these studies focuses on a variety of age groups and locations, all share the common message of transformational learning as a way to help students, teachers, and  schools to shift “into more powerful versions of themselves” (Riel, 2008).   With the right tools, the right lighting, and an inspired artist, what might begin as a simple block of stone can be transformed into an emerging work of great art.

 

Summary of Review

 

Teacher and student relationships are essential for learning. Students succeed in learning environments that are open, motivating and engaging where students and teachers are working together in successful partnerships (Jones, 2008)(Tapola & Niemivirta, 2008). In these learning environments, the classroom is often more student centered with the child directing his/her learning with the guidance of a teacher. The teacher in these learning environments is seen as more of a facilitator towards the students learning rather than the giver of knowledge. This way the student rises to the challenges of directing his/her own learning. Additionally, since the learning becomes more personal, students are more engaged learners and more motivated to learn.  One of the most significant changes in education that results from this change to a student centered classroom environment is that standards in these classrooms are typically much higher because of the responsibility placed on the student as well as the control the teacher turns over to the student. Overall, these classrooms are tremendously successful benefiting the student, teacher, classroom, and school as a whole transforming students into better versions of themselves.

PURPOSE OF ACTION RESEARCH:

PROBLEM/SITUATION: The problem I want to solve is for my students to become more motivated learners in a classroom where there are multiple opportunities for success. My students should have multiple opportunities to demonstrate their learning and understanding; there should not be only one time chances for success.  Too often kids are limited in their abilities to demonstrate their learning and understanding. Understanding how they learn best and capitalizing on that knowledge will allow for students to have multiple opportunities for success and learning. Students should believe that learning can look, sound, and feel different as it has in the past for them.

Also, students should not settle for a D and not allow the D to be passing. Instead, I want my students to be able to revise an assignment as many times as possible in order that they will truly show their learning and understanding.  In order to move on in school, students should truly have to show they learned the material. Students should not settle in their lives for the minimum but instead foster a greater understanding of what it means to be a successful learner. I want my students to push themselves with their learning and understanding with my assistance in creating a supportive environment that allows for them to learn and achieve in ways they never thought possible.

Students should have a say in their education and learning so that they will be more successfully motivated developing a greater understanding of their learning. I hope that with the changes they experience in my classroom will enable them to be successful life long learners. Education exists for the kids; it is not something done to the kids.

As engaged learners, my students will examine and understand the learning process with me.  I want the skills of reading, writing, critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration to grow and flourish so that these skills benefit them in all areas of their academic career.  Collaboratively with my students’ assistance, we will create a safe, nurturing, 21st century learning environment allowing for my students to be the best version of themselves while collaborating with their peers in order to develop life long skills.  

GOAL OF ACTION RESEARCH:

PURPOSE: The purpose of my Action Research is to motivate my students to be engaged successful learners through a classroom environment where they are participants and leaders.

               

Cycle Report

 

Cycle One Report: Eliminating the D with Multiple Revisions

My first cycle builds from my desire to shift the way I assess my students.  I wanted to see if I created a more student centered learning environment where students were expected to achieve and given multiple opportunities to achieve, would they be more successful learners?  Also, in order to assist my students’ transformation into more successful learners, I needed to change the way and manner in which I give feedback.

To start this cycle, I discussed my plans for removing the possibility of a D grade in my class with my students to gauge their willingness to participate in my research with me.  I asked for their feedback and willingness to participate trying something new. All of my students agreed to participate. With their agreement, we decided that in order to be successful learners, the students would have multiple opportunities to revise their work in order to show their learning and understanding since we were taking away a barely passing grade.   The multiple revision policy would work in conjunction with the No D policy so that students would be able to learn from their mistakes. The students had as many times as necessary up to the six week grading periods (6 , 12, and 18 weeks) to revise their work using feedback that had been provided on each revision.  With a multiple revision policy, I would provide copious amounts of feedback to help my students become more successful as well as arrange times for students to come in for individualized instruction on their off hours or before or after school.

Additionally, I communicated with my principal my desire to change my grading policy by removing the possibility of a D. I also informed him of the students having multiple revisions in order to be the most successful learners.  He was very supportive of these changes and we both agreed that it would important to notify the parents of the changes I was making. To communicate with my parents, I sent a parent letter home explaining what I am hoping to accomplish in my classroom, and then further explained the project to parents at back to school night who had signed and returned the permission form.   I informed the parents about the No D policy as well as the multiple revision policy.  With my students, after initially presenting the idea at the beginning of the semester, the students all agreeing to participate, and implementing the multiple revision policy, we developed a common rubric for grading with the students.

Summary

To summarize, the changes in my grading policy that I was instituting formed a three part system framed by three interacting research questions.

Cycle One Research Questions:

1)  If I remove the possibility of my students getting a D, will my students…

  • aim for the higher grade because failure isn’t an option
  • be more motivated to try harder
  • need more assistance from me to help when they aren’t understanding
  • be more engaged in their learning
  • seek out extra assistance when they aren’t understanding

If I give my students no deadlines except for at the end each six week grading period, will the students…

  • redo the assignment over and over until they demonstrate their understanding
  • seek extra assistance to turn in their best work
  • start redoing assignments less because they do it correctly the first time
  • be more motivated to be successful
  • become better writers with multiple revisions of their work

 If I have my students create their own rubric for assessing A, B, C and F work, will the students…

  • have a clear understanding of their grade
  • have a clear understanding of the assessment
  • redo assignments less because they know what is expected from them in order to achieve
  • be more motivated to be successful

In summary, to build off of the No D policy helping my students become more successful learners, the students needed multiple opportunities to demonstrate their learning and understanding so, in case they did not understand the assignment the first time, they would not be defeated or fail. Instead, in order to help the students become successful learners, the possibility of a D grade was eliminated and the students received multiple opportunities to redo their work in order to fully demonstrate their learning and understanding achieving an A, B, or C quality grade

 

Data Collection

I had the kids complete reality checks  also called “What’s Up” to help me understand what is going on in their lives, what challenges they are facing, and what good things they are encountering so that I can help if they desire. This has been an excellent communication tool for enhancing the teacher to student connection so that I am often aware of aspects of their lives other teachers might not see. 

With this first six week reflection, I also had the students respond to questions about our class’ first major assignment, to reflect on the No D policy, multiple revision policy, the class rubric, as well as other learning factors.  The students completed their answers to these questions in class and submitted their responses to me.  I find this direct communication from student to teacher builds a trust relationship where students are more connected with me because they know I am reading what they have to say and will respond in kind with what I am able to do in assisting them with their challenges. Adding the aspect of reflection on the No D and multiple revision policies as well as student generated rubric, established a basis for my research illustrating that they are part of the research as well. I let them know before they completed the survey how important it was for them to be honest and reflective so that we could make changes to what we were doing if necessary. 

After the 12 week grading period, I asked the class to reflect once again on what is going on in their lives as well as focusing on the No D policy, multiple revisions, and how they see their progress regarding their learning. I encouraged them again to complete the survey as honestly and openly as they could because their answers are driving this research project.  I also added a question to this survey focusing on their work ethic with the No D policy and an additional question addressing the multiple revision policy seeking out the impact of this policy upon their learning thus far in the semester. I wanted to see if the policy was beneficial or had become a crutch for them to rely upon.  Additionally, I also asked for them to look ahead and establish goals for the remainder of the semester. The students submitted their responses to me when they had finished completing their answers in class. 

At the end of the semester, the 18 week grading period, the students reflected one last time regarding the No D policy, the multiple revision work, and an overall reflection on their learning. There were also questions about technologies role in their learning since this class meets in a 1-1 learning environment where each student has his/her own computer to use.  I was interested to see if the use of the laptop and USB made revisions and feedback an easier process.  I also asked the kids to do some reflection on their grade as well as suggestions for improvement for me, for the No D policy, and for the class.  This time the reflection was to be posted on the class blog. Not all students completed the final semester reflection. Class time was given to complete the reflection and I emphasized again how important it was for students to give honest and reflective feedback.

At the end of the first six weeks of second semester, students completed an in-class, anonymous survey which was posted on our class blog.  The survey was an online survey using Google Spreadsheets which asked questions directly focused to the multiple revision policy and its connection to their learning.  Following the survey results, I asked if there were students who would like to elaborate on their answers in an afterschool interview. Those interviews were conducted with three sets of students (group 1, group 2, and group 3).  The students were asked to expand on the answers they had given in the online survey.  The interviews were recorded.

Summary of Data Collection

At the end of every  six week grading period (six, twelve, eighteen, and twenty-four), I asked my students to reflect on their learning, their grades as a reflection of their learning, the No D policy, and multiple revision policy, the student generated rubric as well as other learning factors.  At the beginning of second semester, the students asked for the multiple revision policy to continue in this class. Additionally, at end of 6 week period in second semester, the students completed a survey in class reflecting their overall feelings of the multiple revision policy.  The results of their survey were followed by interviews with students who wanted to further discuss their answers previously given.  Students were also reminded throughout the semester of the approaching due date indicating the end of six week periods.

 

ARTIFACTS COLLECTED: I collected the following:

  • Blog entries evaluating the use of a student created rubric
  • My own personal reflective blogs
  • Student evaluations at the end of the 6, 12, 18 week grading periods.
  • Student survey at end of first six weeks of second semester.
  • Personal interviews with students at the end of the 18 week period with students with the greatest challenges overcome and students who are still challenged.

Data Analysis

First Six Weeks:

Six week reflection questions: 6 weeks responses

  • How is it going?
  • What is one thing that is going well for you?
  • What is one thing that is challenging you?
  • How can I help? 
  • How is the no “D” working for you? 
  • Do you think your grade is an accurate reflection of your learning?
  • How is the opportunity to redo assignments working for you?
  • Any suggestions?

 

Research Question One: No D Policy

After reviewing the 27 total responses for the first six week period, and focusing solely on the No D policy aspect, 23 students commented on the positive change that the policy instituted and 1 student commented about a negative view of the change.  The students that did comment about the positive change linked their choice with the motivating factor of the policy and its ability to push them to try harder and do more.  The student who had negative comments about the No D policy reflected that it was a policy that did not affect them since “I haven’t even come close to a D.” The remaining three students did not answer the questions related to the No D policy.  Assertions could be made that the change in implementing the No D policy was very effective and instituted a positive change for the class in terms of their learning and success as students.

From the first six week reflection, the data indicates the students’ evaluation of the No D policy and their motivation and success as a learner.  Students reflected that the policy pushed them to achieve more because students would either do the work that was sufficient to achieve an A, B, or C or students failed.  Eliminating the middle ground of passing with a D was a motivational factor in many of the students’ minds.  The students had to remain focused because barely passing the class was not an option.  Some students even reflected that they wished more classes had a No D policy since it helps them demonstrate their learning and understanding if they happen to falter on one assignment.  Students could still be successful even if they didn’t “get-it” the first time around. 

Research Question Two:  Multiple Revision Policy

From the first six week reflection, the students overwhelming approved the multiple revision policy.  Out of 27 responses, 19 indicated a positive response.  The students emphasized the connection between the No D Policy and multiple revision policy. They saw a growth within their learning and themselves as a result of the policy.  Many indicated the value in being able to learn from their mistakes, the ability to submit their best work over time, being able to reach a grade they desired.   One student who indicated a negative response indicated that he felt the multiple revision policy defeated the purpose of homework. However, this student also took advantage of the multiple redo policy throughout the first six weeks.  Seven respondents chose not to answer the reflection question. 

Giving students the opportunity to redo assignments supported the No D policy.   This change enabled students to turn in products of understanding that measured their learning over successive efforts to develop their learning.  Students commented about the effectiveness of being able to learn from their mistakes by turning in better quality work time and again.  The combination of the No D policy with the option to hand in revised copies of their work, seemed to affect the students’ personal beliefs about their learning and achievement.  Students commented on their desire to do more and redo assignments because they felt better about their learning. Additionally, it is important to emphasize that students also indicated a change in themselves personally feeling more successful as learners.  This is valuable to note that for some students the revision policy became more about improving themselves as learners rather than simply seeking a better grade.  Also, this was just a reflection of their growth within the first six week grading period.

Additionally, as previously stated in the first part of the cycle one report, students felt much more empowered in determining their grades because the emphasis was placed on them doing their best work for as many times as it was necessary.  The students’ grades seemed much more in their control versus the teacher control.  Students commented upon this factor saying that it really helped them feel much more successful about learning and in control of the learning.  The ownership over the grade and learning resided with the student.  Students reflected that this was a big change in their education.  Some students even commented on the change of the role of the teacher assisting them in the learning process but not being in charge of the learning process. 

 

Research Question Three: Student Generated Rubric

In the first grading period, although there was no direct question asking the students about the rubric, in the students’ reflections about the No D and multiple revision policies, eight students directly commented positively about it. These students elaborated saying that the rubric, being of their own creation, assisted them in their understanding of grades, created a strong expectation for achievements since they knew how to obtain the desired grade, and felt as though they had a say in their own grade. Students indicated that through their ideas being part of the rubric, they had a clear idea of what was expected out of each and every assignment. This once again parallels with students feeling more empowered with their learning and grades. Since students knew the expectations and they had determined the expectations, students felt like they were more successful in their learning or knew the steps they needed to take to improve upon their learning. No students commented negatively upon the rubric.

Second Six Weeks:

Twelve week reflection questions: 12 week responses

  • What do you think about their only be six weeks left of the semester and our No D policy?

·         Reflect on grade- is it an accurate measurement of your learning?

·         Are you doing everything possible to achieve the grade you want?

·         How is the No D policy working for you? Be specific with examples.

·         How is multiple redo policy working for you?  Are you having to redo assignment more often or less?  Is it helpful or a hindrance?  Do you procrastinate because of it? Or is it helpful because you can keep working until you do your best work?

·         Have you made progress since the first six week period?  If so, how? If not, why not?

·         What goals or strategies are you going to set up for yourself for the final six weeks? 

 

The second six weeks reflection validates the information from the first six weeks. The No D policy was still in effect as well as the multiple revision policy and the use of the student created  A, B, and C quality rubric.  Students continued to reflect on the effect of the No-D policy to motivate students to try their best and take advantage of increased feedback.  Many students commented that the No D policy had increased their motivation to do well because if they did not achieve their best, they would fail the class.  This sentiment was continued with students expressing their thoughts on the multiple revision policy.  Students appeared to see connections between the No D policy, reworking assignments multiple times, and their degree of increased control over their grades.  

Research Question One: No D Policy 

In their reviews of the second six weeks, there were 29 responses turned in to the questions about the No D policies. 28 out of the 29 students again reasserted the positive effects of the No D policy and their desire to continue with the policy.  Students that felt positive about the policy added to their answers the connection with the policy to their motivation to learn and turn in quality work.  Five students responded with a negative view of the policy one explaining that it either did not affect them, that they wouldn’t do the work regardless, that he wanted an F, or attributed the negative feelings the student would have towards the teacher if the student received an F.  Three of these five students that had negative views about the policy also commented about the positive nature of the policy as well in their response.  One student did not answer the question about the No D policy. The assertion could still be made that the continuation of the No D policy and its effects on student learning is important. From the first six weeks, 23/ 27 students saw the policy as an important positive change, and during the second six weeks 28/29 students echoed that sentiment.

Furthermore, some students realized that they have to do all their work because failure is not an option so no matter if they procrastinate, do it correctly the first time, or need multiple redos, the assignments must be completed.  Students also commented on a change they witnessed in their grades indicating that the grades might not be an accurate measurement of their learning. Some students said their grade did not communicate all they had learned in this class.  Some even attributed the grade to more of a work ethic measurement versus learning.  Through their reflections, some students described seeing their teacher in a different role-- as one who will help them achieve their best work, not as one who just gives out grades.

Research Question Two: Multiple Revision Policy

Out of 29 respondents, 28 students responded positively regarding the multiple revision policy during the second six week grading period.  There were no negative responses although a couple of students indicated that the policy led to some procrastination on their part as learners. One student chose not to answer the question, but indicated that all the new policies (No D policy, multiple revision policy, student generated rubric) had “the class working as a whole, and working together to achieve greatness.”

As indicated previously on part one of the cycle report, students noticed they were not making the same mistakes they had previously because of the opportunity to redo assignments over and over again. Many students talked about the change and growth in their reading and writing abilities as a result of the multiple revision policy.  Some students said that that they needed less revisions because they were not making the same mistakes.  They consistently commented on the power of learning from their mistakes.  Many students acknowledged what a tremendous change the revisions allowed in them personally so that they recognized in themselves growth as learners, positive changes in their writing skills, and less procrastination on their work.  Interestingly, many students indicated such positive changes in their writing skills by being able to learn from their mistakes.  They indicated how important it was to redo their work right away so that they would not have multiple assignments to rework all at the same time.

Furthermore, some students realized that they have to do all their work because failure is not an option so no matter if they procrastinate, do it correctly the first time, or need multiple revisions, the assignments must be completed.  Throughout their responses to the revision policy, students seemed split on redoing work as a result of learning and as a result of wanting a better grade.  This is an interesting point because it could be showing a shift in the student’s thinking moving from initially wanting a better grade to wanting to learn.  14 respondents commented on the value of learning from their mistakes, and seven commented on the growth in their writing skills. The survey question did not specifically ask for either of these responses and so to see the students’ willingness to comment on the impact of the multiple revisions is noteworthy.  One important point to note was that in this 12 week reflection piece, students were aware that only 6 weeks remained in the semester to change their grade. 

Research Question Three: Student Generated Rubric

Two students commented directly about the student generated rubric in this reflection period although no question was directly asked.  The students indicated once again the preference for knowing the quality of work that was expected if them in order to achieve the desired grade.

Student Reflection --18 weeks

18 week semester reflection questions: 18 week responses

  • What changes have you seen this semester in regards to your education?
  • What role did technology play in that change?
  • Are you more or less motivated to learn?
  • Do you feel that your grade is an accurate measurement of your learning?
  • What role did the constructivist philosophy play in that change? (constructivist-students becoming producers of information, students in charge of their own learning.
  • What suggestions for improvement do you have for me next year?
  • Do you want to continue with the No D policy?
  • What are some of the things you would suggest I do again?
  • Did you finish the semester where you wanted to in terms of your learning or grade?
  • For those of you that finished the semester with a D or F what are you going to do differently next semester?
  • Make sure to include specific examples and expand on each other's ideas. Your feedback- honest and reflective- is important!

 

The final semester reflection indicated a continuation of all the previously mentioned comments.  Students still wanted to continue the policies of No D, multiple revisions, and the A, B, C quality rubric.  Many students are seeing the connection now between the multiple redo policy and No D policy as something they are in charge of regarding their learning.  Many students commented that the grade is really up to them because they have multiple opportunities for success and learning. A number of students commented about the learning and grades existing for them and not for the teacher or parent. Students also commented on the importance of them creating the rubric for all their work.  Overall, most students felt their semester grade was an accurate measurement of their learning. Students commented that they wanted to continue all these policies into next year and felt successful about how their first semester finished.

Research Question One: No D Policy

In the final semester reflection on the No D policy, 23 responses were collected.  21 of the 23 responses indicated a desire for continuation of the policy and the positive change the policy made in their learning.  Three students had a negative view of the policy but did not provide an explanation for their reasoning. One of the three students who had a negative view also commented that she would like to continue with the policy as well.  One student suggested that this policy be implemented in other classes as well.

Interestingly, of the negative responses that were tabulated at the beginning of the semester, the student who felt that the No D policy did not affect him changed his opinion at the end of the semester reflecting that it became a motivating factor, “…because I think that it drives people to strive for a better grade and in turn more learning.”  Two other students who thought negatively of the policy and did not want to see it continue had not responded this way to the question previously. One student reflected continuously throughout the semester his dislike of the policy. 

Out of 30 kids in this class, only two failed where in previous years, up to 9-10 in students in the class would receive D’s or F’s.

Research Question Two: Multiple Revision Policy

At the end of the semester survey, 23 students responded to the final survey. 13 students mentioned the impact of the multiple revision policy on their learning without a question specifically asking them about the policy.  Additionally, although nine students did not mention the policy in their reflection, they did mention the change in their writing they had seen over the course of the semester.  14 out of the 23 total respondents indicated a positive change in their writing. These students noticed significant changes in their writing being better, more understandable, clearer, and focused.  Students also commented that the understood the writing structure much better and could effectively write better paragraphs.  There was a connection noted between learning from the mistakes made in writing and the ability to learn from those mistakes. Mistakes and learning work together in creating a more motivated student and learner.  Students commented that they wanted to continue all these policies into next year and felt successful about how their first semester finished.

Reflecting on this survey, it would have been better to ask a specific question relating to the multiple revision policy, although, there was already a plan to have the students complete a survey during the first six weeks of their second semester. Having a specific question would have enabled the students to reflect specifically about the effect of the multiple revision policy. By not having a specific question, one is able to see the effect of the policy on the students if they commented about it or not.

Research  Question Three: Student Generated Rubric

During the final semester reflection, five students commented about the rubric they had created although no direct question had been asked.  Students reflected on the power of creating their own rubric knowing that the excuses for not succeeding had been taken away because they knew what is expected of them to achieve. Ultimately, they felt they could choose the grade they wanted since they knew what would be required.

Student survey: Second Semester- First six weeks and results

  1. Has the ability to redo assignments multiple times been beneficial to you?

Not at all, Sometimes, Most of the time, Always

  1. Has the ability to redo assignments had a positive change to your thinking about learning and being a successful learner?

Not at all, Sometimes, Most of the time, Always

  1. On average, do you do an assignment correctly the first time the assignment is assigned?

Not at all, Sometimes, Most of the time, Always

  1. If you need to redo assignments, how many times does it take you to redo the assignment in order to get the grade you desire?

1, 2, 3, 4+

  1. At your best guess, how many assignments have you redone in order to improve your grade?

None- , 1-3, 4-6, 7-9, 10+

  1. Thinking about the feedback you receive on assignments, did it help you succeed as a learner?

Not at all, Sometimes, Most of the time, Always

  1. Do you take the multiple redo policy for granted? 

Not at all, Sometimes, Most of the time, Always

  1. If I required homework to be turned in immediately, how often would you have turned it in on time?

Not at all, Sometimes, Most of the time, Always

  1. Knowing that you have multiple opportunities to redo your work, has your effort declined on those assignments?

Not at all, Sometimes, Most of the time, Always

  1. Throughout the semester, do you try to perform harder at first so not to have to redo it?

Not at all, Sometimes, Most of the time, Always

  1. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the greatest improvement, how have you improved as a student as a result of the multiple redo policy?

1-2: little to no change, 3-4, 5-6: good improvement, 7-8, 9-10: greatest improvement

  1. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the greatest improvement, how have you improved as a student as a result of the No D policy?

1-2: little to no change, 3-4: some improvement, 5-6: good improvement, 7-8: good but not great improvement, 9-10: greatest improvement

  1. Should I continue offering our redo policy next year to freshmen when you become sophomores?

Yes or No

  1.  On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being greatest improvement, how would you rank the redo policy vs. a non-redo policy in terms of it actually improving writing?

1-2: little to no change, 3-4: some improvement, 5-6: good improvement, 7-8: good but not great improvement, 9-10: greatest improvement

  1.  In the future would you hold yourself to a self imposed redo policy even if your teacher at that time did not require it?

Yes or No

 

Thinking back over this entire second cycle as well as its connection within cycle one- part one’s No D Policy and their connection to my overall goal of having my students be more successful with learning, the two have worked in unison and completely supportive of one another. 

20 students completed the survey that was given in class and submitted anonymously.  The students who did not complete the survey were not in class on the day the rest of the students completed it.  Out of the 20 students, 16 indicated that the policy was beneficial to them and 16 additionally indicated an overall positive change to their thinking about learning.  One aspect that was interesting to examine more closely was how the policy has effected how many times they needed to revise their work and their effort exhibited towards each assignment.  19 of the students indicted that it took them 1-2 times to revise their work in order to achieve the grade they desired.  18 indicated that they either do not take the policy for granted or that they only sometimes take it for granted.  In connection with the effort put forth towards assignment completion, 18 indicated that it does not decline at all or only sometimes. 

The students were also asked about the change they see in themselves as students and as writers as a result of the policy.  Out of a scale of one through ten with ten being the greatest improvement in themselves as students, 16 ranked themselves a six or better. Specifically, six out of the 20 students ranked themselves as a nine.  Looking at the change they saw in themselves as writers, a resounding 18 indicated a seven or better in terms of the greatest improvement in themselves as writers with 13 out of the 18 indicating a ten on the scale of one through ten with ten being the greatest improvement. Finally, 14 out of 20 students said that they would hold themselves accountable to revise their work even if a teacher did not require it.

                                      

Reflection:

Thinking back over this entire first cycle (No D Policy, Multiple Revision Policy, and Student Generated Rubric) and the role it had leading to the overall goal my students being more successful learners, I am very excited regarding their comments/ feedback and am eager to go forward.  I think one of the things I took away the most from their comments is how important it is for students to feel in control over their learning and empowered by education. By having them be a part of this whole action research process, I have turned over much of the control of the classroom to my students.  The students from day one determined if they wanted to be part of this research project, we discussed together what it would be like to not have the option of receiving a D (what are the consequences, possible successes, issues with a policy like this), and then generated a class rubric to assess the learning and understanding.  They drove this research process.  And thinking ahead, I think they will continue to drive the research.

When students feel in control and empowered, as we all want to feel in our lives, change is possible.  Students realized that by determining the rubric, there were going to be no surprises in the grade.  And, if students did not achieve to the best of their ability in round one of an assignment, they had the opportunity to keep revising it as many times as necessary up till the six week period in order to truly demonstrate their learning and understanding.  They seemed to really embrace the idea as a class that failure was not an option.  With the support of Dr. Riel, my principal, and the parents, I think this aspect was really hit home for them.  The periodic reflection kept reminding them of the policy so that the focus was on learning and achieving.  I wanted the students to walk away from this semester successful in their learning through their growth in writing, reading, comprehension, and hopefully, achieve more in this class than they had previously; I think their reflections are a testament to that. 

I also think their reflections are a testament to the power of students having a say in the design of their education.  By students being in charge of their grade through the multiple redo policy, the students generating the rubric to assess their learning, and failure not being an option, students achieved more in this class than in many of my previous years teaching this same class.  I feel that through their comments, this was the best many of the kids had ever achieved in a Language Arts class.  This success would have been possible without the mutual pairing of the No D policy with the multiple redos. I think the class would not have been as successful if only one element would have been implemented at a time. 

One thing that really surprised me was how encouraging all their feedback was towards me as their teacher and the changes I was trying to make in the classroom. Some students now see their learning and grade in their hands and not so much in the teachers. I think this is a dramatic shift for such young kids to experience. I also was impressed by the reflections of students who really see my role as a teacher as more of an encourager, not wanting them to fail, but instead giving them multiple opportunities to be successful. It makes me wonder what teachers have done in the past to them that teachers haven’t created this feeling within them before. This echoes the difference between teachers as coaches and teachers as assessors. Students are differentiating roles of a teacher into a golden standard.  They see a teacher is more than an assessor; they see teachers as coaches encouraging them along the long race of learning. Teachers who are coaches see learning as a continuum where the success of the students is a measurement not only of what the students understand, but is also a personal measurement of teaching. If my students are successful learners, than I am also successful in teaching, mentoring and coaching them along.  The feedback students are receiving because of the No D policy is supporting this assertion because the kids are willing to do more to achieve rather than focusing on a grade. They want teacher as coach, not just teacher as assessor.  They are encouraged to do more than what has previously been expected of them.  They are building trust with the teacher and are understanding that the teacher has a greater interest in them succeeding other than just the focus on a grade. Teachers who see their role in teaching as an assessor are only concerned with the end result or with a number.  I hope I can continue their interpretation of teachers as a coach, mentor, and learner rather than a teacher who is just concerned with their grade. 

Focusing more specifically on the multiple revision policy, I think one of the things I garnered from their comments is how critical it is for students to be able to redo/ revise/ rework their work in order to learn. From the first time I discussed this policy with my principal, my learning circle, Dr. Riel, and my students, they all commented about what a change it has been for my students in their view towards their learning, and the change in me as a teacher who has never allowed redos before in her class.

My students overwhelmingly value the chance to redo their work, and see it not as an expectation placed by me, but an expectation they place on themselves. They value the opportunity to learn from their mistakes and to grow as learners.  Whether it is through feedback I have given them as their teacher, the peer feedback or student teacher feedback, they have taken all of this in mind to change their work. Resoundingly, I think the final survey indicates what a dramatic change this has been in my classroom. Many of the students see themselves as better writers and learners. They see a connection between learning from their mistakes, and applying that learning to new situations and assignments hopefully carrying forth into their other classes. This shows clear transference of information which is when learning occurs; there are not experiencing mere regurgitation.

The students see now writing as a process not a one time only turn it in piece of work. They see the value in continuing to work on an assignment until it is their best work.  Many of the students indicated the challenge in assignments in other classes being a one time only piece of work, and struggle to learn if there is no opportunity to revise and grow.  This indicates a meta-cognitive approach to their learning where they are becoming reflective about the learning process understanding what methodologies and practices are instrumental to them.

With the interviews conducted at the end of this cycle, I was greatly interested in hearing the students elaborate on their answers to the survey questions. One aspect all indicated was that the feedback from the teacher was instrumental in their ability to redo their work.  With feedback, the students saw what they needed to work on and change.  Thinking ahead to the next cycle, and focusing specifically on feedback, this is good information and valuable. It makes me think about training the student teacher and students as becoming reflective practitioners of their own work so that they learn from their mistakes and I do not have to give as much feedback in the end is as needed in the beginning.

The amount of grading and feedback undertook was overwhelming at times. I am not sure I would be capable of giving the quantity of feedback in all of my classes that was necessary to assist these students.  Therefore, I can see a real need to train the students to become self reflective and adept at giving feedback to other’s work.  This would make them become more reflective on their own pieces as well as assist others in the class with their learning. 

The feedback from the students on the multiple revision policy has definitely changed me as a teacher. Before this policy and this year at Pepperdine in the OMET program, I never considered giving kids chances to redo their work- I had the no redo policy in place for 10 years. My belief was that the students needed to do their best work the first time and that if I gave them multiple chances to redo their work, they would not learn to be responsible, put forth their best work, and achieve. Instead, by giving myself the permission to try something new, I realized how valuable redoing your work is. The students learned over time and did not take advantage of the policy because they simply realized that having too many assignments to redo is incredibly stressful. Also, they learned that they could grow from their mistakes and would make far less errors because they applied their learning to each new assignment.

I learned that it is more important to learn from my students.If they need me to work harder by providing them with more feedback so that they can be successful learners than that is my job.  If only given one chance to succeed on an assignment, they do not learn, they simply feel defeated and give up. Giving multiple opportunities improves their writing, their work ethic, and their personal feeling about themselves as learners.  It also improves the student teacher dynamic because they see all of us working together to achieve the same thing: success as learners. I am learning from them, they are learning from me, and they are learning from one another.

Looking forward, I think there are some things I need to spend some time contemplating.  How are these policies going to work moving forward seeing as how the students are already used to them?  Will this lead to complacency and procrastination knowing that they can wait till the six week period to turn work in? Or, will it work more effectively because students will turn in their best work initially knowing that they would rather do it correctly the first time and not wait till the last minute?  Will having a student teacher who is implementing these policies with the students shift the power of these policies in a different direction?  Will they be as successful?  Maybe my role can change to more of a mentorship role with the really struggling students enabling a 1-1 learning environment for them.  Could I work one on one with students (possibly just D and F students) while the other students work with the student teacher?  Will my students benefit from having two sources of feedback?  How can I help my students give each other feedback and train them as “experts” in this area? I also really want to work with the students creating suggestions for where they would like the class to go in terms of answering my research problem.  I feel like I am asking them for suggestions but not really getting anything from them. Maybe I need to work on the kinds of questions I am asking or to work directly with students who are not meeting their learning expectations in order to more individually meet their needs.

Overall, I see a dramatic connection in students feeling successful in their learning by taking ownership over their grades, redoing their work, setting high expectations for themselves, their teacher, and their class. Through the No D policy, and the ability to redo multiple assignments, and the creation of the A, B, C quality rubric, the role of the teacher and student changed; the teacher shifted to more of a facilitator towards student learning, and the students embraced their own learning and understanding which was ultimately reflected in their grade and success as a student.

Cycle Two: Multiple Revision and Role of Feedback

The second semester began with a student teacher assuming the role of teacher in the ninth grade class. Also, the class dropped from 30 students in first semester to 23 in second semester. The ratio of boys to girls in this class is 13 males and 10 females.  The class did not receive any new students. Because of the work and attitudes that resulted from the No D and the multiple revision policies, the students indicated a great desire to maintain these two policies in place throughout second semester. The student teacher, Randon Ruggles, reviewed these policies with the students to ensure the students all understood the continuation of their work into second semester. The students indicated to him their need to continue with this work. 

During the first six weeks, the students were completing an extensive writing assignment called “Project: Change the World.” The multiple revision policy was instrumental in their success in this large writing endeavor.  The students were to select a topic that they were passionate about, research the topic, and write a persuasive paper including research to support their stance, about changing the world through their topic. For example, a student selected the topic of child soldiers in Sudan and Darfur. The student wanted the use of child soldiers to stop, found research to support his stance, and wrote a five paragraph, thesis driven paper including documentation of research indicating the change he wanted to see in the world as a result of his stance. Finally, he also ended his paper with an action plan as to what he was going to do to stop of the use of child soldiers. 

The reason the multiple revision policy was instrumental in student’s success with this paper assignment is that throughout the paper, the students were receiving feedback from both the student teacher and teacher in order to improve their writing on each draft and section of the writing process.  The survey that the student’s completed about the multiple revision policy was completed during their writing of the paper.

 

My action research question is “How do I motivate my students to become more successful learners?”  On this cycle, I shifted the focus to not only the feedback I would give to my students helping them become more successful learners, but concentrated on helping my student teacher become a more successful learner and ultimately teacher through mentoring and developing his own feedback process.

 

To begin my second cycle, I reflected on the steps that put this cycle together.  At the beginning of second semester, I knew I was going to have a student teacher, Randon taking over two of my English classes. We had discussed before he arrived that he would be taking over my English 9 class on the first day of second semester to establish his presence and relationship with the class right away.  We talked about the class policies my students and I had in place (Class expectations, Teacher Expectations, Student Expectations, No D policy, multiple revision policy, and student generated rubric) and decided he would continue these policies this semester as well as review them with the students. During the first week of school, Randon went over these policies with the class and we all agreed to continue with them. Randon and the students also agreed to participate again in my action research work.  Although the overall goal of my AR remains the same “How do I motivate my students to become more successful learners?”, this cycle will focus on making my student teacher a more successful learner. And in turn, by making him a more successful teacher/ learner, my students will become more successful learners. 

How are we going to achieve this goal?  Randon started the semester teaching the freshman position paper by taking the paper into a more appropriate 21st century direction. In the past, the paper the freshmen wrote focused on selecting a topic the students were passionate about, researching on that topic, and then using the research to write a persuasive five paragraph paper that conveys their ideas.  This year though, I wanted to do something more with the paper so that it was more meaningful and relevant to my students. Since I would not be teaching this class, I went over my ideas with Randon to create the Change the World paper.  We wanted the students to write about something they were passionate about regarding changing in the world. They still would need to find research to support their position but they would also create an action plan for change to accompany their paper. Randon taught this paper and all the writing strategies necessary for our students to be successful.  This was something Randon had never done before and would be a good opportunity for feedback and growth as a learner and teacher. 

Student teaching is a challenge in and of itself, but in addition, Randon had to teach writing to freshman, plan the units, and participate in my research project; there was a lot on Randon’s plate as well as mine to help Randon be successful.  We broke down the paper into a step by step process so the students could see the part to whole and whole to part. One realization we came to quickly was that feedback was going to be very important in helping our students become more successful learners and writers. How was I going to help Randon learn how to give feedback?

 

Cycle 2: Research Question:

MY ACTIONS (Cycle 2): The research question is “If I provide dynamic support first through modeling, then parallel teaching and then working alone, will this help

  • …my students…

·                 become better writers

·                 more successful learners

·                 be more engaged in their learning

·                 seek out extra assistance when they aren’t understanding

  • ...my student teacher…

·                 Become a better teacher

·                 Learn about the power of effective and meaningful feedback: professionally and to the students

·                 Learn and grow over the course of his teaching

·                 Reflect on his practices, adapt, change, and improve

·                 Seek out assistance when he needs clarification or suggestions

  • ...me...  

·                 Grow as a teacher

·                 Grow as a reflective practioners

·                 Grow as a mentor

·                 Reflect on what it is like to be a student in my classroom

·                 Understand more clearly why I give the feedback the way I do examining if it is the best possible method

·                 Understand how to give the best feedback to meet my students needs realizing that I might need to give various forms of feedback

Cycle 2a: Modeling Feedback

We decided the first action (Round 1) would be me giving initial feedback on the intro paragraphs and then Randon would follow up my comments with his own.  The students reacted well to getting this feedback.   This helped me get a sense of how well the kids were responding to Randon’s teaching, what I would need to do to support Randon and the kids, and the overall goal of their learning. Randon and I realized upon review of our feedback how differently we give feedback and discussed why I give feedback the way I do- this led to Round Two.

We decided moving forward that Randon would keep the kids in class who were on task and getting their work turned in, and outside of class, we would use a differentiated instruction model. I would take the other kids outside of the classroom, moving tables and chairs as well as their laptops, assisting each kid individually in what areas they were struggling.  Because we have a number of kids were not completing their work, we have kids in various stages of the writing process.  The differentiated instruction should assist with this. 

We also decided in order to make sure Randon is able to give all the feedback he wants without duplicating my feedback, we would have the students turn in two sets of papers to us at each stage in order to maximize the feedback from both teachers.  The students would also receive peer editing feedback in class. 

The students would also complete a reflection sheet called 1-1 feedback that would help us determine how effective the feedback and individualized instruction was in the differentiated sessions occurring outside the class.  

Cycle 2b: Parallel Double Feedback 

The students wrote their next paragraph (first body paragraph), made corrections to their intro paragraph, and turned in two copies for Randon and I to each provide feedback.  Randon had been teaching the paragraph structure to our students and also showing student examples from previous years for the students to learn from.  Randon and I reviewed how important it is for the students to outline their paragraphs before they begin writing, and he followed through with this in his teaching.  After writing the intro and first body, Randon and I each reviewed and commented upon our copies and then returned them to the students.  While we reviewed each other’s comments, we looked for absences or presence of feedback. What did one provide that the other did not? What did we notice we both commented upon? What areas of growth do we see from the first round of feedback?

After returning the papers to the students, we asked them to complete a note card reflection examining the dual feedback they had received. Randon wrote the questions for the students to respond to after one of our morning planning sessions.  The students responded to the following questions:

1.       Name

2.       On a scale of one to five with five being the highest. How helpful has the double feedback been?

3.       Are the two sets of feedback overwhelming? Why?

4.       Would you rather prefer one teacher feedback? Why?

5.       What is one thing we can do to improve your feedback on these paragraphs and why?

After the feedback from Round Two, we decided to continue with our differentiated 1-1 instruction plan to address student learning needs, review plan which provided the dual feedback on student papers, and our evaluation reflections involving teacher review of feedback strategies as a form of collaborative professional development.  We also wanted to make sure the students were completing the 1-1 feedback forms and note card reflections about the dual feedback in order to meet their learning needs helping Randon and I differentiate throughout the writing process.

Cycle 2c: Randon Provides the Feedback

We did not collect two sets of papers for the intro- second body paragraphs for dual feedback because only Randon was teaching the class and I was out of town for graduate school.  Randon provided the feedback on this set of papers and we did not collect any feedback since I was not present to do so. However, Randon and I still split up the class into a differentiated instruction model before and after I was absent. I remained with the students who were behind during the intro- second body writing, and then Randon helped the students who had completed their work.

Cycle 2d: Peer Evaluation on Feedback

We moved on to the students completing their intro- third body paragraphs. During this round of intro-third body, students who were behind remained in the classroom with Randon and I helped the students who had completed their assignment peer edit.  Before returning their work, Randon and I reviewed each other’s feedback on the students’ papers looking once again for absence and presence of comments trying to determine change and growth from when we had completed this after the intro-first body comparison. What did one provide that the other did not? What did we notice we both commented upon? What areas of growth do we see from the first round of feedback? After handing back our dual feedback, we asked the students to once again complete a note card reflection on the feedback they have received from us. On a note card, they were to answer the following questions:

1.       Name

2.       On a scale of 1-5 with five being the highest, how helpful has the double feedback been?

3.       Are the two sets of feedback overwhelming? Why?

4.       Would you rather prefer one teacher feedback ? Why?

5.       What is the one thing we can do to improve your feedback on these paragraphs?

6.       Is this more or less helpful in your writing? Why?

We decided that this would be the last round of dual feedback since the students would be completing their essays the next week. Students would be completing individualized conferences with Randon to assess their paper after he had read and graded them.

Cycle 2e: Individual Feedback Sessions

Students, after completing their Change the World paper, signed up for individualized writing conferences with Randon. This is where all the work of Randon and I had completed (reviewing each other’s comments, providing dual feedback, 1-1 sessions, and soliciting feedback from the students) should show an effect. During the final writing conference, Randon went over the paper with the student explaining his assessment of the paper, asking question of the student, and clarifying any question the student had.  After the students had all completed their final writing conference, we asked the students to respond in class to the following questions:

  • What was the most effective part of the dual feedback you received?
  • What could have been improved about the feedback you received?  Think about oral feedback, written feedback, and dual feedback.
  • Over the course of the A-CW paper, do you think your writing improved? If so, in what ways? If not, why not?
  • What essential writing skills did you take away from the unit?
  • What suggestions for improvement do you have for teaching the A-CW paper next year?  What suggestions would you give to students next year in completing A-CW?
  • What kinds of feedback were the most meaningful and relevant?  Think about oral feedback, written feedback, and dual feedback.
  • Over the course of the semester, did you notice a change in Mr. Ruggles’ feedback ? Think about oral feedback (1-1), written feedback, and dual feedback. Did his feedback improve over time?  What suggestions would you have for his continued improvement in giving feedback?
  • Over the course of the semester, how helpful was Smith’s feedback?  Was the written, oral (1-1), dual feedback the most helpful? What was the least helpful? What suggestions do you have for Smith to help Mr. Ruggles with feedback?

 

The students were informed of the importance of this last reflection and their honesty and thoughtfulness were encouraged.

Analysis:

Round One Analysis

Randon and I’s absence/ presence

As focal points for our discussions examining feedback, we looked at absences and presences. We started looking at each student’s papers one by one. After the first five, we noticed we were commenting on the same things. Randon indicated he did not want to repeat my comments so he did not reiterate what I had already written. As far as analysis, that made it more difficult to determine reliability since his comments were not on the paper but instead indicated orally to me. This is one thing we are going to change for the next time we go through this process. 

We agreed that all the students need to work on eliminating personal words and contractions in their essays and their proofreading for these features needs to greatly increase. We also pinpointed some students who need extra attention with their thesis statements before they move on. We discussed a course of action for these struggling students. I would take them aside separately and almost conduct a writer’s workshop of sorts in order to help the student along individually.

We are not sure at this point why some of the students are still struggling with their thesis statements and intro paragraphs.  We both commented that the form of intervention above (differentiated instruction) might be the best to assist these students as well.  Most of the kids who are struggling seem to be the ones who are completing only some work in class, are not following the structure of the paragraphs, and really need some one on one attention. This is going to be the intervention strategy we are going to explore and see if it makes a difference.

We are also wondering why so many kids are not completing their work. Why are we not receiving thesis statements, intro paragraphs and now first body paragraphs? These are conversations we need to have individually with the students emphasizing the work of a differentiated classroom.  We even noticed going through our comments together that we are differentiating comments for each student. Some students who struggle more in writing receive more feedback and direction than students who are getting the concepts and formats.  So not only is our classroom a differentiated learning environment but our feedback reflects that as well.  We are going to make sure we are meeting all kids’ needs by giving them more in class time to work and meet with us individually, hopefully seeing greater growth in their writing and work completion. 

Specifically looking at our feedback, we noticed that we had a lot of common notes such as citation of sources, structure of writing, personal words and contractions. The areas we differed were how we went about conveying other aspects. I typically write my comments into the margins of their essays offering constructive criticism and some praise.  Randon writes a direct note to the writer offering praise, suggestions for improvement and a positive message of encouragement on most of his responses. He does this all in a paragraph format at the end of the essay.

We concluded that the best thing Randon can do is to find a system of giving feedback that works really well for him.  We both agreed that we really need to keep up with the differentiated instruction as well as that carrying over into the feedback. Every kid needs different forms of feedback to assist them in their learning. 

Going forward, we are going to use a differentiated instruction method where I pull out kids into the hallway and work specifically with each one on areas they are struggling with. Randon will remain in the classroom to work with the entire class.  On days where they are doing peer editing, Randon will work specifically with kids one on one and I will be roaming the room.

Randon’s reaction-

Randon’s reaction to this first round was one where he found it to be very beneficial to him and his learning.  He felt like this opportunity to be part of the research project, and to learn how to give meaningful feedback would be helpful. Randon commented in his blog:

                One, we both had similar markings, which is what I would like to see (at least that I am catching the main errors in student writing). Secondly, Anne likes to mark things on the side of the page with a little note beside it. I, however, tend to want to write a paragraph to students at the bottom of their paper. In fact, I frame my paragraph with a good comment at the top and some sort of suggestion to keep students’ learning increasing throughout the drafting and writing process. I really enjoyed seeing the different ways that we give feedback. Third, Anne tends to be very critical in her feedback, which is really good and I believe helpful in this situation. However, I had a hard time finding a positive comment. I really feel that students today need some sort of positive feedback to continue learning and know that they did something right at least. I do see Anne’s point in being very restrictive with the positive comments, because it takes more weight when a teacher writes “Good Job” on a paper every once in a while, as opposed to every time they receive a paper back.

To conclude, today’s exercise of walking through the papers and learning what Anne wrote, what I wrote the same, and then talking about that was really helpful. It has started to give me a much better idea of proper assessment and what that looks like in today’s world of education. I look forward to our next challenge and learning opportunity…

Overall, I think it was a really interesting round of learning about each other. Randon and I had a good conversation about feedback, quality and quantity of feedback, what is important about feedback as well as what are differences are in giving feedback. We both walked away from the conversation excited about where we are taking this cycle.  We are both in this together and it feels like this time we are both vested in seeing the students succeed. Randon being directly involved in this cycle versus inheriting the other cycle is making the difference. Moving forward, I hope to see growth in both my feedback and Randon’s so that our students’ success as learners improves.

Round Two Analysis

Randon and I’s absence/ presence

After changing our feedback process to writing on two copies of the students’ papers, Randon and I noted many of the same mistakes the students are making as well as noted some areas of change.  We provided feedback on mechanical errors students were making. Many of the mistakes are simply errors in proofreading and not making the corrections from the last feedback round. This was frustrating to both of us knowing the amount of time it takes to give quality feedback and seeing students making the same errors over and over again.  We were both very detailed in our comments about punctuation and mechanical errors.  Also, we noticed that Randon tended to make a large note to the student at the end of the paper whereas I wrote my comments throughout the paper.  The students struggled with citations of their research and so we can see this as an area where we need to provide more instruction.

One change noted between Randon and I is that I spent more time making sure to leave positive feedback when appropriate.  I wanted to make sure students recognized growth from their first draft especially with areas they worked to improve upon. Also, Randon started changing his comments into questions and leaving more detailed feedback. These are really important changes showing how we are both learning from the time taken to review our comments and feedback with one another. 

Additionally, the students benefit from us reviewing our feedback because we can see areas that need to be re-taught, reviewed or introduced.  For example, although we were expecting students to cite their sources, Randon had not introduced how to cite sources so that they connect to their works cited.  This is an aspect we noticed as a result of conferencing with one another.

Because of taking the time to review feedback with one another, we were able to add aspects to one another’s papers that were to be returned to the students. This should eliminate any mistakes where one has comments for the student and another does not.  Trying to reduce confusion with the students in giving feedback is a challenge with two sets of feedback.

Student feedback on note cards

The students’ feedback on the note card reflections was surprising and informative for this was the first time they had received dual feedback on separate copies of their work. Out of 23 students, 22 completed the survey. One point of interest is that out of the 22 students, 19 students rated the dual feedback as a three- five on helpfulness with five being the most helpful.  15 ranked it as a four or five.  This is very valuable because the students have never written such a large paper before and this demonstrates how important the feedback Randon and I are giving is to the students.  To follow up this question on the helpfulness of the feedback, it is important to ask if the feedback is overwhelming. 12 students said no, five said yes, and three indicated a little. This shows that some students are struggling with the quantity of feedback while others are finding the quantity valuable. Finally, the students’ commented regarding their preference for one teacher’s feedback.  13 students responded that they would not prefer one teacher feedback, but would rather have dual feedback; five said they would prefer only one teacher’s feedback, and three indicated that it does not matter.  The five that indicated they would prefer only one teacher’s feedback reasoned that the quantity of feedback from two teachers is overwhelming and by only having one teacher’s feedback, this would eliminate the feelings.  Also, a couple of the replies indicated they wanted feedback only from the teacher who would be grading their paper.

Round Three Analysis

Randon and I’s absence/ presence

We reviewed the papers and looking overall, we noticed that we are pretty similar in catching punctuation and mechanical errors, although Randon would do really well on the first page or so of the paper, and would fall off after that point. When asked about this, he was not sure why that was happening and also commented that he did not see why he needed to keep marking the same mistakes. We discussed the role of a teacher and assessor in giving feedback; our job is being to help kids edit the papers and show the mistakes so that they can see what errors they are making.   If we do not mark it, the kids do not recognize that it is a mistake they are making. They can not learn and grow then.

Randon’s reaction

Randon reaction to this round of feedback mimicked much of what was previously commented on in the analysis:

                Anne wrote down a lot more comments than I did, but I am learning a lot from this experience, and specifically from this feedback time. 

One thing that I learned was to look at the big picture.  I often got caught up in the little details of the papers that I was giving feedback on, the commas, errors in punctuation, and other marks, that I forgot to acknowledge the larger picture.  What does this quote have to do with the entire paragraph?  What about its significance to the entire paper?  I seemed to miss this connection in many of the papers that I gave feedback on.  I will need to remember this fact as I continue on the journey of this paper. 

Another thing I learned was to mark everything.  There were a few papers in particular that after the first page of the same errors time and time again – personal words, contractions, or missing the same element every time – that I honestly gave up.  I did not mark anymore.  I figured that since I marked it on the first three pages that the student should be able to figure it out.  This spurred an interesting conversation with Anne and a realization inside me.  Anne told me, and I agree with her, that it is our job as educators to mark everything – to give the student the feedback.  Then in the wonderful questioning method of reflection she asked me this: How is a student to know what they did wrong if you do not mark it?  That caused an interesting reaction inside of me.  I thought initially that it was a waste of time for me to mark everything at the beginning, but instead now that I realize it I need to.  They may not realize their mistake, they may not change it, or they may ignore the mistake on a later page because I did not mark it.  So, the next round of feedback I will be marking everything and giving the students the feedback that they deserve and that I would want if I was the student. 

There are a few things we still need to work on in terms of giving feedback.

1) Extensive Feedback:  We decided that we needed to give feedback throughout the paper. Even if students are making the same mistakes, we thought it was important to give thorough feedback since we are doing limited in class peer to peer feedback.  With the peer to peer work, we found that we needed to do a better job training our students on how to give feedback. This could be an extension of this work into next year and their next writing assignment since they have seen Randon and I model feedback and they have reflected on the kinds of feedback they have received from us.

2) Using similar language terms for editing helps students:  I used writing terminology that is familiar to the kids when I taught first semester and Randon used language in his feedback when he taught the class. This might have lead to some confusion because I overheard students debriefing with Randon at their final writing conference that they were confused as to some of the terminology (explanation of quote, relate quote to point of paragraph, relate quote to thesis- Anne’s terminology v. Randon’s –quote says, point to the paragraph, make the point). Keeping our language similar would assist the students in their feedback and understanding. 

3) Stress Coherence.  We discussed the need to focus on bringing all their points back to the overall point of the essay. This was a struggle for Randon having never taught writing before. This is one area consistently where he would consistently focus on details rather than the students making the big argument.  Are they actually relating everything back to the thesis? 

Randon does a really nice job of leaving a paragraph at the end of their writing discussing things he thinks they need to work on.  I have not adapted to his style of feedback because I like giving point by point feedback within the paragraph.  Both methods combined would work well where the student has the point by point corrections within the paragraph and an overall paragraph at the end with further extensions.  Randon is shifting to this method more of not just an end paragraph, but notes within the paragraph as well. Also, he started asking more questions of his writer and not just pointing out elements that were missing.

Randon also commented on the process of dual feedback that this really helped to clarify grading and feedback. It helped to see why I give feedback the way I do. Modeling feedback and teaching someone how to give feedback and justification for grades is a lot more difficult than I thought.

Student feedback to note card reflection

Only 11 students are on track to complete the assignment on time at this point.  With the 11 who have completed their intro-third body paragraphs, we asked the students to once again reflect on the dual feedback they are receiving from Randon and my self.  11 students indicated that on a scale of one to five with five being the most helpful, that the feedback was a three through five.  These are high numbers in regards to the feedback and how helpful it has been.

When asked about how overwhelming the feedback is, five students indicated a “yes” response, six indicated a “no” response.  This is a change from the last time. In comparison, the last time we solicited this feedback, most of the class did not feel the dual feedback was overwhelming. Some possible reasons for this change could be that the students are further along in their paper, and so if they have not been making changes all along, they would be falling further and further behind regardless of getting more suggestions for improvement. Maybe only having dual feedback for those that really want both perspectives and those who do not, they can submit one paper.

Another piece of the note card reflection was asking the students about their preference for one teacher providing feedback. Four students indicated “yes” and six indicated “no”.  The same four responses that were in the yes category of this question were in the yes category of the previous question.  A reason kids struggle with the dual feedback is that there is too much feedback for some kids to handle. Two sets of feedback and, with their struggles in writing, might be too overwhelming.

The final question on the note card reflection asked if the students felt the dual feedback was more or less helpful in their writing.  10 indicated more helpful and one indicated less. Interestingly, on the previous two questions the kids were basically split 50-50 in their responses about the helpfulness of dual feedback, but in this last question resoundingly the kids feel that it is better for their writing.  Why the difference? What could bring about the disparity? Is it that they do not like the multitude of responses but value the feedback? So, if we could combine the feedback into one document, would that make a difference?

Moving forward, I can see one final reflection from the students on this whole process. They are each meeting with Randon to review their final papers and grade.  When they are done, it would be good for them  to reflect on the feedback they have received in that final conference- how well did the feedback throughout the writing process prepare them for their final paper (this would include the 1-1 feedback, Randon circulating the room, dual feedback on their papers, and final conference with Randon).  I also want Randon to reflect on the entire process. He has reflected after the first time we compared feedback (intro paragraphs) and after the last time we did this (intro -3rd), but I am anxious and interested to hear about changes he has noticed in himself, in the students about feedback and growing as a learner. 

Round Four Analysis:

Randon created a sign-up sheet for the students to meet with him individually regarding their paper. I did not participate in these conferences because it really was Randon’s time after all our discussions about writing and feedback to be the sole disseminator of the feedback and assessment.  Randon was initially frustrated with the conferences because students would miss their appointments, but he commented that the conferences were meaningful overall.  This is definitely echoed in their responses to Randon’s growth in giving feedback to the students. They commented over and over again about how meaningful his oral feedback was to their understanding and improvement in writing. The chance to sit down and talk through the paper with the student 1-1 was very important to have each one understand the grading and writing process. They had a chance to ask questions and solicit more feedback if need be.

The students completed an in-class reaction to the whole writing and feedback process at the end of the writing conferences.  The questions the students responded to were a good gauge to see how effective this cycle was in helping Randon become a more successful learner and in turn for the students to become more successful learners.  When asked about the effectiveness of the dual feedback from Randon and I, 17 students out of 21 indicated that having the two points of view to learn from was meaningful. Eight of the 21 indicated that it was nice to have two teachers indicating areas of improvement and point out mistakes that could be corrected.  Overall this shows a real positive view of the dual feedback process in helping Randon learn how to give feedback and grow as a teacher. The students also indicated areas of improvement for Randon and I with giving feedback.  Some students felt the feedback was contradictory, others needed increased clarity and more specifics, some felt it was repetitive, but overall, the kids really emphasized how important the oral feedback was to them in the writing process.  Their assertion is supported by their feedback to the question “what kinds of feedback were the most meaningful and relevant?”  Seven kids out of 21 indicated the oral feedback, seven indicated the written feedback, four indicated dual feedback and two indicated all kinds of feedback. 18 out of the 21 students learning needs were meet as referenced in the feedback they provided because of the differentiated feedback that Randon and I were able to provide. This is a great learning experience for both Randon and I to reflect upon seeing what each learners needs to grow as a writer.  And growing as writers, we see from their reflections that 21 indicated a positive change in their growth as a writer.  The students indicated learning structure of formal papers, incorporation of research and quotations, explaining information, taking a position, and organization. 

All of these are areas for Randon to take pride in. His students changed into more successful writers as a result of the feedback, his teaching style and presentation of information, and his willingness to solicit feedback from them.  15 students out of 21 indicated a positive change in Randon over the course of his teaching the Change the World paper. They specified his growth in the area of giving feedback acknowledging his change from first being tentative to giving criticism to one where he provided not only written feedback, but dual feedback with me, oral feedback, and one to one learning sessions. 20 students also commented on my role during the writing process indicating a positive response to how helpful my limited role was.

Overall reflection:

This semester so far has been truly interesting on many levels as is this year in my life pursuing my Masters’ degree. I have seen tremendous change in my self and giving permission to myself to try new things. I took on a student teacher and turned over control of teaching, learning, and grades to him and my students.  Reflecting on all of these changes is challenging because my mind reels from the possibilities, the mistakes, and the future to come.  Was this semester effective and meaningful? Did I do my job helping Randon learn and grow to be a more successful version of himself? Did he help my students learn and grow to become more successful learners? 

Change in Feedback:

A major area of reflection is the change in giving feedback both to our students and to Randon.  The students responded so well to helping us all learn and grow from the experience.  When first presented with dual sets of feedback the students were really overwhelmed.  Interestingly though, although the feedback was abundant, they rose to the challenge and realized how valuable the feedback was even if it seemed too much for them.  I do not know why, but I did not think that the dual sets of feedback would be overwhelming.  This was helpful feedback to think about. How can we meet all learners’ needs so that they are getting an appropriate amount of feedback from Randon and I, but without overwhelming the students at the same time.  The students pointed out the feedback seemed overwhelming because there was so much of their paper to fix.  The kids were basically split 50-50 in their responses about the helpfulness of dual feedback, but resoundingly the kids feel that it is better for their writing.  Why the difference? What could bring about the disparity? Is it that they do not like the multitude of responses but value the feedback? So, if we could combine the feedback into one document, would that make a difference?  I wonder if individual conferences on their papers would be better or Randon and I combining our feedback to avoid redundancy to assist the students.  Is there a way to have Randon and I combine our feedback onto one paper? Maybe ask the students if they only want one set of feedback and then they only receive what they would like? I wonder if it would make a difference to have all the feedback on one paper rather than the students submitting two papers with two sets. Randon and I could have alternated between who adds comments first.  My concern with that is that it is important for me to help Randon learn to give feedback and improve as a teacher, and if I am not modeling effective feedback, then I would worry a student would be missing out.  I hope all kids see the value of feedback even if it is overwhelming and see the feedback as a tool to improve their writing and ultimately their learning. One change I can see that definitely needs to be made is that the feedback needs to be consistent, on one document, and contain positive acknowledgments as well as suggestions for improvement.

Also, some students indicated in their comments about feedback that our feedback was contradictory. There suggestions for improvement indicated that they wished Randon  and I would look over each other’s feedback before we hand back the papers to them.  We do this but the students are not seeing some consistency with our feedback. I wonder if our language in our comments is different and that is the reason why? Or is it the amount of feedback and so it seems different in the manner and style in which it is written? We sit down with our two sets and compare the two sets seeing what commonalities and disparities we have and then add comments to our paper set before we return it to the students.  So, I would think our feedback would be similar since we have gone over the feedback ahead of time.  Their confusion could be tied to the use of different language from Randon and I. I wonder if using the same language and commenting only on one paper with two sets of feedback would eliminate their confusion.

Another interesting point of reflection is that some students only wanted to receive feedback from the teacher who would be grading their final work. Although we have spent time thinking about learning and grades, I still see students focused so hardily on the grade they are going to receive rather than the learning taking place. I wonder if we did blind grading where they would  not know who is going to grade their paper or provide feedback, would they focus more on their writing and thinking than about the end result of a letter grade. This also shows such a strong emphasis or society has placed on grades rather than learning.  This is a tough idea to combat and one that I continue to work on with my students openly discussing that I am more concerned about their learning than their grade.  Another idea would be to use the model from the Art of Possibility where every student has an A at the beginning of the semester and the students write a letter expressing how they achieved that grade before they even start working. This way the focus is altered from the grade to the process.  And writing and learning are processes. For kids that responded that they would not prefer only one teacher’s feedback, I wish there was more expansion on their ideas.  Maybe asking them specifically “why” it is more helpful to them and their writing. Maybe they could not see a connection between the dual sets of feedback and improving as a writer or as a learner?

Looking forward, I am wondering how I will do all this next year without a student teacher. I wonder what will make the greater difference in my students’ success: more class time to work or individualized time with teacher (Ruggles or Smith) or even dual feedback on assignments?  In school there is limited time for me to connect and conference with each student.  Not to mention, I actually need to teach the curriculum and meet each student’s learning needs in a 55 minute class period. So as the teacher in the classroom, I must decide how to spend our class time to benefit all students not just some. Can I enlist the assistance of the students who are more proficient or advanced in providing feedback to some of the struggling students? This way the entire class benefits: the students who are advanced and proficient can provide additional editing support for students who are behind. This in turn benefits the classroom creating a community of learners where all are invested in helping one another succeed.  This might be one way to continue to 1-1 feedback sessions and dual feedback on their writing work without a student teacher present. After all, the goal is to help the students become more successful learners and through teaching, commenting, and reflecting on one another’s work, they can learn from one another. With adequate training for peer review of work, this could be a successful model of intervention allowing for me as the teacher to have more instruction time, 1-1 oral feedback time, and more meaningful written feedback time.

I know one regret I had this year was that we did not do as good a job helping our students become better peer editors and I think this is one area to focus on next time we do writing in class. We need to develop our students and our selves into reflective practioners who think critically, edit, and revise their work continuing to want to improve themselves and their work. If they can do this of their own work, they can help others grow thus creating a learning environment that is supportive of each member growing through the feedback everyone provides.  I think this is one way to continue the dual feedback aspect that the kids valued as well as making time for me to conference individually with students to enable oral feedback that others need. Maybe there is a way to incorporate more of a learning circle approach to writing so that they students are trained well enough in providing both written and oral feedback that they can conference with one another. I know I see tremendous growth in student’s own writing when they read and react to peer work. When they are teachers of the content and skills versus receptors, they remember the skills and knowledge longer and can apply it more frequently.  In turn this would not only help the student himself, but would help the class and the teacher because all would be involved in the writing and feedback process.

For my students:

Another area to acknowledge is helping the students see themselves as writers not merely students in a Language Arts classroom. I think the students do not always see the huge changes they have made since they stepped foot into my classroom back in August. I noticed this as well with Randon. He would be so focused on the negative or things he did not do well, that he would forget all his accomplishments and areas of growth. So whether it is helping my students see themselves as more successful writers, readers or learners, I need to focus on making this an aspect of my classroom.  Learning is a continuum and we are all on the path towards continued improvement.

Based off their feedback, most all students found growth in their writing.  21 students indicated positive growth in writing. This is a huge accomplishment for not only them as they have improved, but for Randon’s teaching as well.  This demonstrates the power of mentoring and feedback (oral, written, 1-1) in changing the students by changing Randon.

For Randon:

Over the semester, I have seen growth in Randon and myself each of us becoming a different version of who we were before. Having never taught before, Randon grew into someone who put together a writing unit, developed writing skills in his students, and challenged them to change the world with their essays. He grew in learning to accept feedback from me and his students in order to improve as a teacher. There is still so much to learn for him (giving consistent feedback, remembering the big picture with writing, variety in feedback, expanding in explanations), but he is on the continuum of learning especially if he learns to accept, reflect, and be open-minded. He has had such an experience of student teaching because he not only had me mentoring him, but in a way, he had a classroom of students mentoring him in teaching and learning as well.

Also, Randon inherited all of aspects of cycle one, but this one was different. He was directly involved. Through our conversations about teaching, our reflections with mentoring, and comparing feedback, he was as much a participant as a driver of this cycle.  Without his participation, I would not have been able to see the power of dual feedback, given the time to have in class 1-1 writing conferences, or the chance to reflect on how I give feedback.  All of these enabled me to change as a teacher and learner.

Randon’s method of feedback changed over the course of the semester as well. He began with focusing on very positive aspects of the students writing somewhat fearful of giving constructive criticism. Throughout our conferences, he found a style that works for him. Randon started changing his comments into questions and leaving more detailed feedback.  These changes reflect aspects that I do when I leave comments. I think these are really important changes showing how we are both learning from the time taken to review our comments and feedback with one another. He still likes the reflective paragraph at the end with his overall thoughts, but he has also expanded his comments with-in the paragraphs to show the students areas that need work or to leave a specific positive comment. This shows such growth for Randon. Instead of it being about the work of giving feedback, he sees the feedback as something that will benefit the student. He came to the realization of how important this is in the life of a student to know what to improve upon in their writing and how to improve in their writing. To me, this demonstrates such success in Randon and clearly defines the purpose of feedback for himself and for his future students. He sees in the value in giving quality feedback to his students. This will benefit him and them in the long run.  I hope to see this carry forth.

For me:

For me, I see changes in the way I give feedback to not only my students but to Randon as well. I realized I need to make a better effort to give positive feedback and not just acknowledge areas that are needed for improvement.  Focusing specifically on the kinds of comments given in early versions of the paper, what was really interesting is noting the lack of praise I gave in my responses to Randon’s praise of almost everything. This lead to good conversation and reflections about accurate praise versus false praise. I want to make sure we are encouraging but not giving false hopes.

I wonder if I am becoming too direct rather than focusing on some good aspects of their writing. Often times I find it challenging on the first go around of editing paper to give a lot or praise but I work towards more praise with each revision. A possible solution to this is to use more affirming comments that are honest in their message.  That way the student’s work is acknowledged but progress and constructive criticism can be made as well.

Over the course of the paper, I found myself concentrating more and more on the kinds of feedback I was giving making sure to acknowledge good work, progress, positive aspects and constructive criticism. As previously mentioned, Randon’s comments made me really think about the amount of positive feedback I give.  Am I not acknowledging positive aspects of their writing?  Or should I try to find something positive in their writing even if it is not apparent in order to make sure they have encouragement?   Sometimes I get so focused on helping them improve, that I do not always compliment the things they have done consistently well, nice phrasing of sentences, or trying new styles with their writing.

I saw a change in how I think about feedback as well. I realized how important it is to make sure I am explaining my comments, the value of 1-1 time with my students, the value in providing multiple feedback times without overwhelming myself, and the need to train my students to be better at giving feedback. I already see how important it is for me to explain the kind of feedback I give and why I give that feedback. Thinking ahead, I will make a more conscious effort to give positive feedback but making sure it is meaningful and relevant. I do not want to give false praise.  I hope Randon sees the value in making appropriate comments and not just giving comments to for the sake of commenting.  This was part of our reflection conversations when we were reviewing the feedback we were giving on the students’ papers. So many of my grading and feedback strategies have just been developed over time and to think about why I give feedback, how I give feedback and give grades has been a nice reflection. I needed to think while giving feedback and not just give feedback.

Another change in me was the realization that I need to be supportive of ways Randon wants to teach things even if I disagree. It is better to let him or my students fail and learn from their mistakes rather than jumping in to try and save them. Thinking back, I wish I would have had Randon record the student’s comments about receiving solely his comments on their intro-2nd body paragraphs. This would have been an interesting comparison between the other sets of feedback we received because on this set there would have been only one.  Also, I felt very confident leaving Randon and going to Orlando for graduate school; having seen the work he was doing with the students and his progress in giving feedback, I felt ok being away from the students for that period of time. Randon was part of the research process as well as the students and so they all knew how important it was to work together.  By allowing them and myself to learn from each experience, we all grow as a result into better versions of ourselves.

Giving the classroom over to Randon in order to help him grow as a learner and teacher was a challenge.  But, seeing the results from the students and maintaining a presence by working with students more individually by providing written and oral feedback on their work, I feel that the Change the World paper was not so much just a change for Randon, and for my students, as it was for me as a teacher who now sees what it is like to be a student/ learner/ teacher in her own classroom.

Final reflection:

 

Just as my students moved from blank or masked canvases to masterpieces of art, so too have I been changed through this process. This year has been a challenge and a blessing at the same time.  Initially deciding what area of my classroom and teaching practice to change was the most pressing; there were so many possibilities (writing, grades, student centered learning, 21st century classroom, inquiry based learning). It seemed that I had some divine permission now to do something that I had always wanted to do- make my students into a more successful version of themselves.  I had always struggled as a teacher with accepting below quality work from my students with no chances to redo the assignment. I felt as a teacher my job was to teach responsibility and, by enforcing strict due dates and guidelines, I was helping my students learn life skills.  Ironically, I decided to go a different direction- a complete 180. By taking away the possibility of the D (poor quality work), giving students multiple opportunities to demonstrate their understanding with each assignment assessed based upon a rubric the students and I developed collaboratively, I was not only changing my expectations for my students, but for myself and my classroom. 

Approaching these ideas with my principal, students, and parents, I was filled with mild trepidation.  How would they respond? Would they be supportive? I should have had no doubts.  As my principal stated, “what parent wouldn’t expect more for their child?”  The students responded so well to the dramatic change in their learning environment. They embraced the opportunity to be part of and lead the change.  They were expected to do more and be more.  I was infected by their encouragement and support to make a difference.

We began the semester creating expectations of their work developing their own rubric for assessment. We also discussed the challenges of eliminating the D and being able to revise their work. With each aspect of the learning environment that was going to be altered, the students were involved in the process. This was a tremendous change for them. Never before had they been allowed so much latitude and responsibility. Before I thought I was teaching them responsibility by holding them to due dates, but now they were actually experiencing meaningful responsibility. They could get the work done improving their learning and understanding. The responsibility rested on their shoulders. I had moved from the enforcer of policies to a supporter of their learning.   It was such a natural shift and so welcomed by me.  The positive change to the learning environment was transformational. I could now be the teacher I wanted to be.  I could be the coach, motivator, encourager, educator not the task master, scheduler and hand holder.  Kids were staying after class to finish work. They were reflecting on their learning and changes they witnessed meta-cognitively. At the same time, I was doing so as well. I was blogging consistently about how they changes I was implementing in the classroom were affecting me, the classroom, and the students. 

I do not know why it took until I was working on my Masters to feel that I had permission to change. The last few years I had spent changing aspects of my classroom into a student centered constructivist learning environment upon receiving a laptop classroom, but I still experienced poor quality work from students.  I assumed that with laptops and a constructivist learning environment, students would do more and be more. But when still held to the same traditional rules of school, how could they change?  Learning is a process and I needed to instill that belief in my students.  Taking away the D, raising the expectations, and placing the responsibility on the students to revise their work, students could be enveloped in the process. Their reflections on the changes are a testament to this.  Students wanted more from themselves and from their learning. They were challenged by redoing their work if it was not acceptable on the first try.  And after redoing their work, they learned from the revisions. They grew in their understanding making less and less mistakes as time went on.  This brought on challenges to me as the teacher as well.

With feedback on so many revisions and various assignments, grading became a nightmare.  How was I supposed to be grading in a timely manner when there were so many versions of an assignment?  And it wasn’t just grading but giving meaningful and relevant feedback to assist the students in revising their work.  Just as they made a commitment to me to do more and learn more, I made this commitment to them giving them accurate feedback and time to redo their work. I was now in a new role.  I really focused on giving written feedback but also expanded at times to oral feedback and 1-1 feedback in class.  It seemed overwhelming at times to be grading and assessing this much, but at the same time, I felt that I had a better grasp on the learning taking place within every student. Not only could I recognize their individual growth, but the students were noticing a change as well.  Thinking back to the first four months instituting these changes, I have never worked harder as a teacher and practioners.

I was changing my perceptions about learning and teaching, reading voraciously, revising rules that I had instituted for years, grading, assessing, and reflecting constantly. What kept me inspired and focused was the influence of my students’ growth and a message a learning circle colleague bestowed upon me.  He reminded me that it is our job to work hard for our students. That is why we are teachers!  We are here for them.  Keeping this in mind throughout the first cycle really helped sustain the motivation to keep up with the kids. They were producing more, growing, learning and changing. I was supporting them all along. Whether they knew it or not, their drive to do more and be more was inspiring me to do the same for them.

With the end of the first cycle, although it still remains, the second cycle and a student teacher entered into our learning. The students wanted to sustain the same practices as they had first semester.  This was challenging to the student teacher as well as myself. For the student teacher, he was inheriting policies he knew nothing of nor had any buy-in for. These were not his policies but were the classes’. Coming from traditional teaching practices into an environment that was student centered and directed was challenging. He struggled, the students struggled with the change, but in the end, they all learned much from one another. I also really struggled through this time. Letting go of my classroom to the instruction of another teacher was a shift for me that did not come easily. Being a perfectionist by nature, to let someone in and take over was difficult. Not to mention, when I felt he was failing my students, the urge to jump in and save all of them ran through my mind constantly. But there was no saving.  Instead, I practiced what I wanted my students to do.  We talked, we reflected, we revised lessons, we learned from our mistakes, over and over again. Over time, fewer mistakes were made, more honest reflection grew, and all were ok.  The last couple of weeks watching my student teacher work was witnessing the lessons learned all come together. There were some of the remaining struggles that go away with experience, but he was in a much better place.

With the second cycle, the research focus shifted from my students’ success  as learners to now include the success of my student teacher as a teacher/learner. Having never taken on a student teacher before, I was learning about my own teaching practice while mentoring a new teacher and student at the same time. The cycle was to focus on the feedback process with student work. While teaching the ninth grade position paper, I was modeling for Randon how to give feedback on student work. We examined styles and methods for giving student feedback. We also asked for the students to reflect on the feedback they were receiving to see what changes we needed to make or what manners were most effective. Most surprisingly, this was a fascinating challenge for me as a teacher and mentor. I had to examine and explain the methods I used when giving feedback to students. Why did I give feedback the way I did? Where did I learn these methods? And more importantly, how did I know these were the right methods to use?  Teaching and mentoring Randon about feedback was an amazing self reflective process. To take the time and slow down really thinking about why I give feedback the way I do, was important to my growth as a teacher. I do not think very often in education we give teachers time to think about why they do what they do and if what they are doing is in the best interests of the students and their learning. Having this time with Randon to examine my practices and to explain my choices allowed for me to grow as a teacher and reflect as a practioners.

Inspiration all around me

I was struggling with writing this last reflection. I put up my concerns with motivation and inspiration on Twitter and a friend tweeted back, “Take a breath and look around, your inspiration is all around you.”  Now sitting here looking at my students write, I think about how lucky I am to have my job, with these kids, with my colleagues at this school.  I have incredible support around me to try new things-to be the masterpiece of myself.  I have a principal who expects nothing less than greatness from me and I work hard to meet that expectation every day, month, and year.  I am surrounded by greatness that my students embody. They want to work hard for someone who believes in them. When they are challenged to do more and be more, they rise to that level.  I know great things lie ahead for these kids. They will be forever changed and opened to the possibilities that are contained within them. I see the same for my student teacher Randon. He has so much to learn, but if open to the opportunities, he will be amazed at the transformation that comes from learning from others and reflecting himself.  Lastly, I have learned the possibilities that lie with in me. I am an agent of change who will not be satisfied with mediocrity anymore. I will hold myself and my students to a higher standard. Looking forward, I want to continue being an example or model of learning for them. From this experience I will continue to wonder about the possibilities of teaching and learning differently. Spreading the message of the changes I have made can be part of the challenge moving forward. I want to speak about what I have done, the struggles I have encountered, and inspire others to take that leap forward into 21st century learning. Through empowering my students, I have empowered myself. The art of possibility has created not only more successful students but a more successful teacher and learner as well who will continue on the path of reflecting, changing, questioning, and growing.

References

Alliance for Excellent Education. (2008). From No Child Left Behind to Every Child a Graduate. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1991). New Horizons for Learning. Retrieved October 1, 2008, from New Horizons for Learning: http://www.newhorizons.org/future/Creating_the_Future/crfut_csikszent.html

Jones, A. C. (2008). The Effects of Out-of-Class Support on Student Satisfaction and Motivation to Learn. Communication Education , 373-388.

Khamois, V., Dukmak, S., & Elhoweris, H. (July 2008). Factors affecting the motivation to learn among United Arab Emirates middle and high school students. Educational Studies , 191-200.

MDRC. (2009). MDRC. Retrieved May 22, 2009, from MDRC: http://www.mdrc.org/

Riel, M. & Fulton K. (2001). Technology’s role in supporting learning communities for the new millennium. Kappan 82 (7) 518-523.

Riel, D. M. (2008, July 16). Personal communication Malibu, California, United States of America.

Tapola, A., & Niemivirta, M. (2008). The role of achievement goal orientations in students' perceptions of and preferences for classroom environment. British Journal of Educational Psychology , 291-312.

Vansteenkiste, M., Timmermans, T., Lens, W., Soenens, B., & Van den Broeck, A. (2008). Does Extrinsic Goal Framing Enhance Extrinsic Goal Orientated Individuals' Learning and Performance? An Experimental Test of the Match Perspective Versus Self-Determination Theory. Journal of Educational Psychology , 387-397.

Zander, R. S., & Zander, B. (2000). The Art of Possibility. New York City: Penguin Books.

 

 

 

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Anne Smith,
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