Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Seeking Student Feedback

Seeking Student Feedback
by Peg Balachowski

I’ve been thinking a lot about student feedback lately, mostly because in Winter Quarter 2017, a cohort of 17 faculty at EvCC are using a new online tool called Instant Feedback to collect data on student learning. The questions all address an instructor’s pedagogy. Students are asked to describe the frequency of the instructors teaching practices in these areas:

•    Displayed a personal interest in you and your learning
•    Found ways to help you answer your own questions
•    Demonstrated the importance of the subject matter
•    Made it clear how each topic fit into the course
•    Explained course material clearly and concisely
•    Introduced stimulating ideas about the subject.

Each time the instructor uses the feedback session (4 times throughout the quarter) they will focus their attention on the area in which they scored the lowest. Faculty will then review white papers that address this area and describe why this topic is important and how to apply this technique in the classroom. After this they plan how to incorporate these new techniques in their class. The most important part of their work is to let students know that they heard what the students said, then tell them what will change based on their feedback. The hope is that whichever area the faculty member address they will see improvement in the next feedback session.

Why do this? Often we as faculty assume we know what students are thinking. This is especially true if we’ve been teaching for a while. I remember in a class thinking I knew what a student was asking before they even asked it! So why ask for honest feedback when it could be scary?

We know that by asking students how things are going in a class they begin to feel valued, and this results in more student engagement. They know their voice has been heard! As this engagement develops, you will likely have fewer classroom management issues.

And remember, this falls under the umbrella of formative assessment. Summative assessment, including exams and quizzes, doesn’t tell the whole story of a student’s progress. Based on the results of formative assessment, you can adjust your classroom practices to maximize student learning.

If you created a short survey to use as a formative assessment for student feedback, what are some good questions you might ask? Post your answers in the comments below, or email!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Growth Mindset and Unlimited Learning Potential

Today’s blog post is courtesy of Betsy Stam, Faculty in the Medical Transcription Department. She wrote this for one of her classes in Medical Transcription 170 this quarter. 

Last week, I had a student talk to me about exercising their mind and learning again – this is so, so timely and relevant.  Just as I was enthusiastic about sharing Emilie Wapnick’s concept of being a multipotentialite, I’m even more excited about sharing Carol Dweck and the concept of a growth mindset.  As she says: “My work bridges developmental psychology, social psychology, and personality psychology, and examines the self-conceptions (or mindsets) people use to structure the self and guide their behavior. My research looks at the origins of these mindsets, their role in motivation and self-regulation, and their impact on achievement and interpersonal processes."

In a fixed mindset, people believe their basic qualities, like their intelligence or talent, are simply fixed traits. They spend their time documenting their intelligence or talent instead of developing them. They also believe that talent alone creates success—without effort. They’re wrong.

In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.

I want to share more.  How Mindset Affects Success  has a great quote, “Benjamin Barber, an eminent sociologist, once said, ‘I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures... I divide the world into the learners and nonlearners.’”

The fixed mindset creates an internal monologue that is focused on judging: “This means I’m a loser.” “This means I’m a better person than they are.” “This means I’m a bad husband.” “This means my partner is selfish.”

People with a growth mindset are also constantly monitoring what’s going on, but their internal monologue is not about judging themselves and others in this way. Certainly they’re sensitive to positive and negative information, but they’re attuned to its implications for learning and constructive action: What can I learn from this? How can I improve?

This article, Independent School Magazine:  You Can Grow Your Intelligence, points out that new research shows that the brain is more like a muscle — it changes and gets stronger when you use it. And scientists have been able to show just how the brain grows and gets stronger when you learn.  Reading about this in Mindset changed how I thought about learning.  You are NOT LIMITED IN WHAT YOU ARE ABLE TO LEARN!!!! While some of the growth mindset literature feels to me as though it’s written for a younger audience and for teaching at lower levels, the concept is basic and applies to us all.

The physics department here at EvCC posted a single handout (with the content of that article) about growth mindset and asked students to read it and reflect on the concept that their ability to learn is not limited, no matter how difficult the material studied.  Just with that idea in the background, scores were markedly improved (with data to document this) over the course of the quarter.  They now include this every quarter.
I want you all to go forward as you start to learn content that will be challenging that it’s okay that this does not come easily – you’ve got this.  It will be hard work, but with the ongoing conversation that we recognize this is hard but you can learn this, you will be in a position to really embrace your potential to continually expand your knowledge and your skills.

Here is one of the more dynamic videos I found about growth mindset:
The Power of Belief - Mindset and Success: Eduardo Briceno at TEDxManhattanBeach