Helping or Hurting?

I am teaching this summer and it is especially exciting as I am piloting the labs I wrote this spring. We are using these labs exclusively and I am collecting student feedback for each lab to help in the editing, refining, and revision process. How fun to read Shelly Belleau's blog ()! It addressed some of my thoughts of late.  Many questions have been going through my head recently as we do these labs.  Here are a few:

1. Are my students learning anything?

2. Are my students meeting the goals set for each lab?  

3. Are these labs and activities a good length?

The students are reflecting at the end of each lab on what they learned, their favorite part, and their least favorite part. Initially I wanted them to reflect to help me. To see if their comments about what they learned were related to the learning goals set for the lab. I also wanted feedback concerning formatting issues (was there enough space to write, should this section start on a new page, etc). I thought these would help me greatly when it came time to edit in the fall. However, I remember sitting in a session at a summer chemistry conference and the speaker was talking about student reflection. He had done some research with his students and thought perhaps students learn more from reflection alone. Perhaps the reflection is helping not only me, but my students as well?

The other day as I was driving and thinking about these labs it occurred to me that my students may be learning more from these labs for no other reason other than this self reflection. There are so many variables going on here! My students are not the only ones doing experiments this summer! One variable that has not changed (much) are my assessments. Perhaps looking at how students perform on those will help determine if these labs are helping students learn more, less, or about the same. At the end of the summer I am hoping to learn whether or not these activities are worth pursuing for my student's sake. Are they really helping them learn, or is it all in my head?

 

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Comments 2

Tracy Schloemer's picture
Tracy Schloemer | Thu, 06/18/2015 - 17:19

Hi Sarah-

While I haven't done as much consistent self reflection as you are this summer with my students (so cool!) , I have gotten such important nuggets from students during this type of reflection on lab/classwork.

I got this more from my AP students, but I got really valuable insights like "this lab was too scaffolded" (not with those words) that gave me a peek into their thoughts and depth of understanding. 

On top of that, I think the more comfortable my students got with giving me feedback, the more human I was to them, which really impacted the culture of the class too. This investment in getting student feedback had a great return on investment in my course.

Happy investigating!

Sarah Kong's picture
Sarah Kong | Mon, 07/13/2015 - 09:07

Yes, Tracy, my experience seems to line up with yours.  My students are now eager to give me feedback.  The reflections really help me see what they are taking home from the lab.  Sometimes it is beyond what I expected, while other times it shows me where I need to beef up the lab in order for them to engage a concept on a deeper level.  I am learning so much this summer!