I just finished reading a blog entitled Reflections on a Semester Winding Down from Barbara Ganley at: http://mt.middlebury.edu/middblogs/ganley/bgblogging/2005/12/reflections_on_a_semester_wind_1.html
This seemed very appropriate for us students in EDUC 685 at this time.
In her reflections, Ganley comments on how exhausted students look and feel at this time of the semester when they should be excitedly looking forward to the next semester. She seems to think that there is just something wrong with the way loads of work that include big projects, long papers and three-hour final exams are piled onto students at the end of the semester. Specifically, she says, “To that end, instead of wearing everyone out, making sure they don’t want to see another book for weeks by backloading the semester with term papers, projects and exams as we are wont to do in American higher ed, I’ve removed the final BIG project/paper/exam from my syllabus.”
An integral part of her course includes regular reflection and self assessment. To this end, students practice writing, creating, and developing style in addition to introspectively examining the topics that they have been studying. Ganley’s contention is that students’ connected work on reflections that include inherent self assessment will spur them to move beyond any boundaries that they may have consciously or unconsciously set up for themselves, learning all the while. Additionally, students will improve their abilities to express themselves clearly in their own voice and correctly in conformity with academic conventions. The aim is for students to explore and learn without the preoccupation with grades. The more students write, the more they learn.
For her first year students, final evaluation includes a “detailed reflective narrative” that requires them think about whether they have achieved objectives set up in the beginning of the course and exactly how far they have come during the semester. This reflection is posted along with something that she calls “bit and pieces projects”.
Ganley’s blog includes the following citations, which I think are worth repeating in my blog:
As Carol Rolheiser and John A. Ross outline in their article, Student Self-evaluation: What Research Says and What Practice Shows, “Research indicates that self-evaluation plays a key role in fostering an upward cycle in learning.” (p.3) And as they also say, the key to making student self-evaluation work, is “teach[ing} students to do so effectively.” (p.4)
My students are required to keep a notebook with three sections: Bell Work, Class Work, and Homework. Besides teaching organizational skills, my hope is that students will use the materials for study and keep as a resource for future Spanish courses. For awhile, I have been thinking about adding a writing log to their notebooks. I could have them write about some topics in English and others in Spanish. Reading this blog has strengthened my resolve to try it next semester just to see if there is an improvement in individual performance.