Tag Archives: reflection

I got better.

I’ve always found it difficult to know when I’m doing a good job. Teachers have such a diverse audience in their students and, realistically, parents and administrators. And while we are supposed to advocate for our students, it is not they who evaluate us. Unless you let them, of course, which is why I give out end-of-the-year surveys.

The nice thing about these is that they tell you how you can modify your pedagogy, and by keeping the questions consistent from year to year you can track your progress. I use Google Forms and follow the following guidelines:

  • Book labs /set aside time in the last two periods before exams so that I give students dedicated time – this gives me a pretty high response rate, except for the students who choose to skip class before exams – and if they choose to skip, then their feedback may not what I should listen to anyway.
  • I make it clear that their responses are anonymous and leave the room while they fill out the surveys.
  • I try to keep the questions as consistent as possible from year to year.
  • Most questions are a scale on 1-5 or 1-10 if I want more detail. I include two free-response sections.

This year I improved in 17/20 metrics. Some highlights:

What I did well

93% of students – and 100% of my gifted/talented ones (I had a class that happened to have mostly G/T kids, and while the surveys were anonymous I did ask for the students’ period) – say I’m knowledgeable and well-prepared. Most importantly, perceptions of me being fair and respectful increased by 25% this year, and my approachability increased by 12%, while the number of students who thought I needed to be more lenient decreased by 36% and the number who thought I needed more strict decreased by 27%. Clearly I’m working towards a good balance in my learning environment and impress the students with my instruction.

What I need to work on

In my comments the kids mentioned my sense of humor numerous times, but as a whole I apparently got less funny  – perceptions of my sense of humor went from 85% to 78%:

“last year you were less serious in the class so when I had to get used to the new style of your teaching it was interesting and effective. (even if it did get really annoying sometimes.)”

while ratings of my explanations (of assignments, but my questions may have been ambiguous and respondents may have been referring to content explanations) went from 85% to 81%. Ratings of my willingness to help went from 70% to 66%. The last figure is the most troubling for me. In his inspiring Google Teacher Academy Application videoDavid Theriault talks about being a champion for students, and the downward trend suggests that I have some work to do there. I know why I got that rating – teaching 6/8 blocks, coaching, and keeping time set aside for myself doesn’t leave a whole lot of extracurricular time for me to work with individual students outside of class or devote my entire attention in class.

I’m also too nice; one of my growth points is to become more assertive:

“I think Mr. Kelsey is tooooo nice, not that he should be very mean, he should be in the middle; fun and entertaining when the class is respectful, disappointed and a bit strict when the class is disrespectful”

“Our class had a lot of rowdy boys and sometimes you would allow their “lack of intelligence” ,for the loss of a better phrase, disrupt the class. “

And what you’re going to want to argue with me about

I’m good at lecturing and it works for my kids. It was the highest-rated instructional technique that I used, and 100% of my G/T kids thought it was valuable (vs. 67% agreeing that discussions were valuable). It’s statistics like this that make wary of dismissing direct instruction in favor of the flipped classroom and collaborative learning models – it’s not that the latter aren’t great ways to teach, but I don’t see why I should deny students the choice of learning in a way that clearly appeals to them, since my students say things like this:

“[Mr. Kelsey] allows us to come up with our own conclusions and then we branch off from them as a class to narrow subjects and think more critically.”

“[Mr. Kelsey] makes the lessons very fun and interesting… even the boring chapters. In addition, he gives us a fair amount of independence and guidance.”

So what do we do when our desire to differentiate and give students choice in how they learn conflicts with the cutting edge of educational thought? And lest we consider technology a panacea, consider this:

I probably think that anything that has to do with internet or computer typing should be removed. Because, some students aren’t really the technical type. They work better with a textbook, paper, and pencil.



New != Good

I’ll cut to the chase: my integration of technology is fairly middle-of-the-road, but just because my teaching isn’t revolutionary doesn’t mean it isn’t good.

I started by brainstorming a list of all the technology integration examples I could think of from my ancient & modern world history classes:

Most of these are described on my Showcase page.

Not trying to do everything at once

I hit a fairly broad range of the SAMR components, and as Jeff says, not every example of technology use needs to be a reimagination or completely new way of doing things. Edutopia tells us that tech integration needs to foster “active engagement, participation in groups, frequent interaction and feedback, and connection to real-world experts,” and most of my activities hit the first three criteria. However, connection to real-world experts is not something I’ve managed to integrate. What would this look like in the real world? It should go beyond just research expert resources – that would fall in the “Substitution” component. My understanding is that kids need to interact with expert in order to move up to the Redifinition component. I don’t imagine too many history professors and think-tank members are going to want to interact with all six of my history classes. But what about armchair experts? Having kids add to Wikipedia entries or comment about current events on a site like the New York Times would expose them to authentic, content-related conversation.

What I could change now

One example of a way I could improve my use of technology now is in my implementation of iClickers (a student response system). I currently use them for multiple choice practice – I project a question and the kids discuss what the correct answer is and why. If I wanted to redefine the way I do lecture, though, I could use iClickers to give the kids some processing time, ala Jeff Utecht, and ask them to answer one or two multiple choice questions every 5 or 10 minutes. This would give them time to reflect, discuss, and practice an essential test-taking skill.

What I could change in a perfect world

My technology integration examples have been cobbled on to my teaching over the past two years as I’ve progressively been given access to a document camera, iClicker system, Starboard, and just this year, reliable internet! As such, the tech skills my kids use aren’t scaffolding very neatly. It would be great to start from scratch, but I’m hesitant to do this since the curriculum at our school isn’t vertically aligned between grades or horizontally aligned between subjects. Like I said – in a more perfect world.

…and something to think about

SAMR and TIM share the unwritten assumption that new = good. This is necessary to get teachers and students to push the envelope, to dare, to dream, to challenge the status quo. I recognize it’s important to battle inertia in education. But we should recognize that these framework do not offer a way to evaluate the efficacy of these new tasks – for that, we’re still going to fall back on traditional criteria for evaluating learning. Making a video, for example, is awesome and can let more creative, less academic types demonstrate their learning. But for others, a video might “take an inordinate amount of time to complete but yield little “bang for the buck.”” (ASCD, Five Hallmarks of Good Homework). When I made my workout video, I spent about two hours planning and thinking about content and five just assembling the nuts and bolts. It was fun, but it spent 70% of the time working on skills and only 30% on the content. This is not absolutely BAD – it’s just something to be aware of when we’re deciding what assessments to use.

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Cold, Hard Numbers: Technology

Since joining COETAIL I have made a conscious effort to include technology in my classes. I’m partly doing it simply for the sake of using technology, but it has benefited both me and my students: I find them more engaged when working collaboratively, and I have pushed myself and created new assignments because of my use of technology.

Over the course of the year, I used several technologies on which I polled my students:

Technologies_Used_by_Mr._Kelsey title=

Long story short, I’ve reached the following conclusions about my use of technology:

  • Students enjoy collaborating, and do it more effectively with online tools (kind of an obvious conclusion, I know)
  • Moodle is very useful for the students who choose to use it
  • Although Facebook and Twitter are popular outside of school, students want to keep a separation between academic and personal life.

Continue reading Cold, Hard Numbers: Technology

Cold, Hard Numbers: An Introduction to My Year-End Reflection

via Williamhung.net

Whether we admit it or not, people love watching other people make fools of themselves. Our delight is compounded when the subject is unaware of their suffering.This is what makes American Idol auditions so sickeningly funny; the off-key notes, ecstatic expressions, and wild gesticulations of willing participants are wrapped in a warm blanket of obliviousness to how ridiculous they look. Some of these poor mules respond by getting in on the joke and rising above it – take William Hung, for example, who had his 15 minutes of fame and maybe a few more. But we teachers don’t have the luxury of lampooning our own incompetence. Our effectiveness depends on becoming aware of our shortcomings and fixing them.

In a bid to avoid such ignominy, then, I had all six of my classes fill out a year-end survey that I created using Google Docs. My goal: to assess the effectiveness of a) my technology use, b) instructional practices, and c) classroom environment. Over the next week or two I’ll be analyzing that data and sharing the results here.

A few caveats:

  1. I’m aware that this is not a statistically valid analysis. While I got most of my students (sample size = 84), I don’t have the background in stats nor the resources to control for variables that might help me make decisions as to causality. So I’ll be discussing a lot of correlation and making educated, though anecdotal, guesses to explain the results.
  2. This is the first year that I’ve given this particular survey, and I’m the only teacher at school who gave it (since I made it up myself). So I lack a quantitative measure of change over time, as well as a measure against the efficacy of other teachers. For example (and I’m giving away the big finale here), my students rated the overall efficacy of my class at 8.23 on a scale of 1-10. But that doesn’t mean I’m in the 82nd percentile; it doesn’t make me a B- teacher. Maybe most teachers would score a 9 or higher, and I’m sub-par. Or maybe other teachers would score in the 7-7.5 range, and I’m a rockstar. The point is that my survey doesn’t help me quantitatively define my develpment over time or give me a context in which to judge my overall efficacy compared to other teachers.
  3. The results represent the students’ perceptions about my instruction, so you should trust the results to the extent that you trust adolescents’ judgements about what education is and should be. I don’t mean to imply that this makes them invalid, but rather it should be part of other external assessments of a teacher’s efficacy.

External links:

Mr. Kelsey’s End of Year Evaluation

William Hung on Wikipedia

William Hung’s Official Website