What’s in the Data? The Value of Feedback
As a product of an urban K12 school district, I’ve taken special delight in observing and interacting with the students at Envision Academy. It easily takes me back to my high school experience, laughing and joking with classmates, and enjoying the moment instead of worrying about the future (my, what difference a few years make!). In many respects, high school was a game where I needed to receive the highest possible marks with the least possible effort and attention to my closet nerdiness – learning was optional. Reflecting upon this experience, I have to ask, are these students expressing what they want to say, or what we want to hear? The question is valid because in a blended learning environment, the accountability of the student is at a premium. If they cannot express what is or is not working, the learning experience is reduced to the kind of blind “buy-in” that currently frustrates many teachers.So what are the students saying about the blended learning project? In a very informal online survey administered daily over the past 7 school days, optional comment responses range from the inspiring (“yo diz iz dope, I’m glad ya doing this for us”) to the practical (“Wifi was lagging a lot today”) to the informative and helpful (“I feel that you guys could try and make this more fun it is just too boring”). Here are the stats for the required survey responses:
- When asked if today’s class was better than yesterday’s class, on average, 33% of students answered YES, 31% answered NO, and 36% answered SAME.
- When asked how they felt about the blended learning project, on average, 2% answered HYPHY, 4% answered HELLA EXCITED, 50% answered COOL, 34% answered AIGHT, and 10% answered HELLA BORED.
- When asked if they felt that they could teach someone else the math they learned today, on average, 26% answered FASHO, 27% answered PROBABLY SOME PARTS, 32% answered MAYBE, 7% answered PROBABLY NOT, and 9% answered NOPE.
- When asked what aspect(s) of the technology help most, an overwhelming percentage of students answered EXCERCISES and MOVING AT YOUR OWN PACE (full breakdown of answers to be included in later post).
It is tempting to think that students are in fact expressing their own opinions considering the variability in these survey results, but I cannot say with complete confidence that the students are expressing what they truly feel over what they think stakeholders want to hear about the blended learning class. At best, these results can provide insights into changing attitudes over time. At worst, they confirm what we already know from interviews and observation. At any rate, they are the result of daily feedback opportunities for the students — something that is not easily recordable in a traditional classroom.Going back to the “school game” I played in high school, this voluntary feedback opportunity was not apparent (nor was the tons of involuntary feedback provided through Khan), so it remained easier to exploit the learning environment than to contribute to its improvement. By providing many options for public and private feedback, I believe that the Envision students treating summer school as a game, as I once did, now have a tool where learning is inevitable instead of optional. Even if that learning is not specifically tied to Algebra standards, they are reflecting on their achievements, gaps, and personal learning styles. Holding this inevitable learning to be true, the new task for K12 educators in blended learning environments should be to foster a classroom environment of personal responsibility, accountability, and increased peer-to-peer communication (something Ms. Negash has managed to a large extent in under 4 weeks). By doing so, we can increase our confidence that the students are really stating their own opinions, instead of what we want to hear, and use those opinions to enrich the individual learning experience.