It is common practice after Exhibition to have the students reflect on their learning, and I endorse this practice. But I also want to take advantage of the opportunity at the end of the semester to poll my students, seeking their feedback and wishes for the upcoming semester.
I asked two questions: 1) What would you like to know about Astronomy? and 2) How can we make Math class better? Please comment on the new Khan Protocol and Math Talk.
Answers to the Astronomy question validated what I was planning on teaching for this semester: the life cycle of stars, the size of the universe, constellations, moon phases, various Solar System facts and concepts, et cetera. This is great because they are curious about the things I think are most valuable for them to learn at this stage, and we can dig deep into some very interesting ideas. I’ll leaven this semester-long unit with some relevant Chemistry and Physics and we’ll be doing fun projects that produce great material for the next Exhibition!
The math question generated several very interesting ideas about how my students are motivated and how they like to learn. With a single exception, they are very happy with the new Khan Protocol, and the most common reason was that the new way of doing Khan Academy helped them manage their homework load better. (In short, rather than requiring 30 minutes of Khan each week, they are required to get ten problems correct in a row in a specific exercise that I have recommended to them. My Math Support students only have to get five correct in a row.) “It’s easier, but harder…” “I’m still doing more than 30 minutes, but I’m more confident and I’m learning more math…” At least five students wanted more “Funsheets”, which are worksheets with a funny theme or puzzle. No surprise that they loved the Maximum Chocolate Event that I held with them (thank you Natalya Vinogradova and Larry Blaine NCTM:MTMS April 2013, Volume 18, Issue 8, Page 487)
I was surprised to find that more than half the class would like me to segregate them by ability and use peer tutors and worksheets to engage the students who “get it” while those that do not get my one-on-one attention. This is an excellent idea and I will be experimenting with table set-ups, grouping by level, laptops during class and harder, deeper problem sets or small projects to engage the upper end of the class.
I will put my handwritten notes, taken right from their reflections (no names), up on the wall for them to see, and I will remind them of their notes when we take on those specific topics. I would hate for them to think that I just had them reflect and then did nothing with their feedback. It is all valuable (except for wanting to know the age of the earth in dog years…) and reflects (no pun intended) their interest and engagement in the subject. I’d be a fool to ignore it.