October 22, 2011

Feedback and mastery learning

This is a guest post by Justin Vail. A junior high social studies teacher in Indiana, where fellow guest blogger, Joey Till, works, Vail, like his colleague, has committed to results-only learning this year.

How Self-evaluation Drives Students to Mastery Learning

All of my activities are either simple completion assignments or projects.  The completion assignments are essentially deconstructed parts of the project.  

When I grade a completion activity I sit down with the student and we scan the various parts of the document.  If the basic requirements are met, the student moves on to the next activity and I put a 10/10 in the grade book.  If the basic requirements are not met, we identify the problem areas and the student makes a second attempt---this is repeated until the student meets the basic requirements.  

When I grade the project (most recently a Regional Geography Video Podcast over the major physical features of 8 different regions), I sit down with each student individually for a more in-depth evaluation of their work.  We listen/watch the podcast together.  Afterwards, I ask the student some or all of the following questions:
  • What do you think is the best part of your final product?
  • What parts of the building process will you do again (reviewing how they worked)? What worked?
  • What is the biggest weakness of the product?
  • What parts of the building process do need to change next time? 
  • What did you learn from this whole process?
  • If you were to grade yourself from A+ to F, what grade did you earn?
  • How can I change the project to make it better?
The self-evaluation process is difficult for some kids.  I sometime have to prod the students to express themselves, but eventually they are very honest about their work and their work ethic.  In fact, students are often harder on themselves, than I would be.   I have evaluated nearly 200 projects this year, and less than 5 times have student's suggested a "grade" higher than what I thought.