Student Survey analysis 2016

This year, my Student Survey results held few surprises (link to view last year’s Student survey analysis). Items directly related to me, such as ‘My teacher cares about me’, were positive. Generally, 70-80% of students answered ‘usually’ with very few, most often only one student, answering ‘no’.

Listening to students

One surprise was the response to the statement, ‘My teacher listens to me.’, to which 48% of my students think I only ‘sometimes’ listen to them. Slightly baffled, I reflected on my practice and identified a few of my behaviors that could lead to this result.

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First, as a rule, I ignore students when they suddenly shout across the classroom, begin asking a question without saying ‘excuse me’ or otherwise catching my attention, and especially interrupt other students. I can easily understand how a child could perceive that I am not listening to them because in some cases, I intentionally don’t listen in order to cultivate a culture in the classroom of politeness.

Of students who responded ‘sometimes’ or ‘no’, their overall average response was only 69% positive, meaning that those who responded negatively to this item were also negative to most of the other items. Of those who don’t feel that I ‘usually’ listen to them, 69% also don’t feel free to ask and answer questions, a tenuous correlation.

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As a simple action plan, I would follow the steps below.

1 Observe if and when I don’t listen to students.
2 Make more explicit that I sometimes ignore students speaking to me if they are acting disrespectfully or impolitely.
3 Reinforce our classroom essential agreement – which was composed, synthesized, and signed by all of the students – about being Open-minded Communicators.

We are Open-Minded Communicators.

We have a right to share our opinions and feelings.

We have a responsibility to show respect by listening and practicing empathy.

I would also note that of all of the classes I have taught in nine years, this is by far the most needy. During any written assessment, there is a constant queue at my desk and barrages of hands in the air asking for help. My email box is also consistently populated by emails from students asking to send PDFs of lost homework and other requests for favors which I politely decline. It is possible that their concept of the role of a teacher is significantly different than mine.

Choice and agency

A difference in expectations might illuminate another perplexing survey item result to the statement, ‘My teacher allows me to demonstrate my understanding in various ways.’

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For their first unit Summative Assessment Task, students had the instruction to ‘Present your research findings in an appropriate medium of your choice (written report, video, poster, dance, cooking, etc).’

Almost everyone in the class chose to do an oral presentation with a poster or PowerPoint for visual support. The remaining two students submitted written reports. Although this may only be a case of carefully reading and following instructions, I feel justified in being somewhat annoyed.

Respect and classroom behavior

I was shocked to discover their responses to the statement, ‘Students are respectful to each other in my class.’

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Only two students think that their peers ‘usually’ treat each other with respect, and almost a quarter feel that their class is always disrespectful. The same holds true for their perceptions of classroom behavior.

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When I asked if anyone wanted to learn in a class like the one shown above, no one responded.

I have discussed these results with my grade level team, administration, and the precious grade teachers. All assured me that the students’ feelings about their community are absolutely about complex social dynamics. In brief, this class has too many ‘alphas’ and not enough empathy. This is a case study to test my ability to cultivate social and emotional intelligence. And a fair and timely challenge it is.

A future post will detail the reflection and data informed action plan I have set into motion to help this learning community to become more Caring.

I would certainly appreciate anecdotes and suggestions that might more brightly illuminate a path forward.

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Designing a new classroom

Upon arriving for the first day of a new job, I sat by myself, for the first time in my new classroom, Grade 4B, in my new school, K International School Tokyo.


In anticipation of that moment, I applied attention to classroom environment as a crucial element of Learning Experience Design. Several interesting articles have been published recently on this topic, including Classroom design can boost primary pupils’ progress by 16% and The Perfect Classroom, According to Science.

While following CISC 2015 – the most inspiring symposium I didn’t attend, I was inspired by a classroom layout concept shared by Brian Curwick.

It closely resembled my own thinking about the importance of collaborative teams in learning. I augmented this idea with the need for a balance between private, collaborative, and presentation spaces.

Empowering pedagogy


Last April, I was pleasantly surprised by this tweet announcing a twitter chat on the topic of environment in empowering pedagogy:

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsThe document shared in the tweet, ‘The Environment’ (Chapter 8 of Empowering Pedagogy For Early Childhood Education), and Making Your Environment ‘The Third Teacher’, another article shared within it, have both been enlightening as during my deliberations.

The graphic below from ‘The Environment’ is an ideal reference in this process.



Also included was a quote which resonated strongly with me:

‘The path of learning and development is more like a butterfly than that of a bullet.’ Jim Greenman

Learning shouldn’t have a trajectory, but rather a heading.



Although these Reggio Emilia inspired resources focus on early childhood learning and I will be teaching Grade 4, I think the concepts and strategies are absolutely applicable, particularly in promoting engagement.

What are the ‘hidden treasures’ for nine year olds? They still literally need things to climb, sand to dig, and water to pour. But they should also play with increasingly sophisticated concepts. And they should do it together, so perhaps many of their treasures are the ideas and feedback from each other, as Constructivist pedagogy suggests.

Design perspective


//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsDesigners rethinking schools and classrooms provide inspiration. The DesignShare website contains many interesting illustrations to consider. Of particular interest to me were their pages about the Learning Studio and Home Base and Individual Storage.

Jim Greenman’s publication for Beyond the Journal, Places for Childhood in the 21st Century, inspires an ethical and moral dimension to create learning spaces which ‘encourage competence, provide comfort, and accept individuality.’


In the article, How UDL can get you to personalized learning, David Gordon describes considerations for goals, methods, materials, and assessment can promote the Universal Design for Learning recommendations of:


– Multiple means of engagement (affective)
– Multiple representations of content (recognition)
– Multiple means of action and expression (strategic)


‘When applying the UDL framework, goals should be decoupled from the means to achieve them so that teachers can effectively plan to provide multiple pathways to success.’


Physical reality


Even with all of this to consider, the actual cuboid room and traditional furniture and materials within dictate the design of the learning space.

Fortunately, the room has significant natural light. Unfortunately, it illuminated years of dust and grime that demanded my attention before any theory could be considered.

While dusting and washing, I excavated all of the ‘stuff’, such as binders, plastic drawer units, rolls of butcher paper, etc, to directly in front of the projector screen. This helped to guarantee that once it was all sorted and relocated, a large open space would remain which would serve as a whole group presentation and interaction space.

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Settling into a new classroom. #twt

A post shared by Bart Miller (@bartmlr) on


My immediate goal was to design a space with three zones:

Private/independent
Small group collaborative
Whole class presentation/interactive

Our private space is the smallest, consisting of a classroom library under the bright windows and soon, colorful foam mats for floor seating.

The small group spaces are my priority. I arranged individual student desks into groups of four (one group of five) around the perimeter of the learning space, each with its own bookshelf to store resources including encyclopedias, dictionaries, thesaurus, student work in progress trays, and some their other materials.



Through proximity, I believe that students may enjoy a greater sense of connection to and responsibility for their learning assets. They will also have a voice in deciding exactly how their spaces are used, empowering them to act as designers themselves.

While promoting cooperation, this arrangement also prevents distraction, as the space between the groups is maximized.

The center of the room contains an open space for whole class interaction. When the desk groups are pushed closer to the walls, there is enough room for the entire class to form a Community Circle with their chairs, or to create a sort of amphitheater environment for viewing presentations and media.


Digital environment


Our fourth teacher is online. Using Moodle and other online tools, I expect to enhance our cooperative and collaborative learning.

However, that is a topic for another post.

Conclusion


Have I designed a space to achieve my goal to include private, collaborative, and presentation spaces?

Maybe.

We have a private reading area under the windows, albeit tiny and exposed. Yet there is warm natural light and colorful foam mats on order to further brighten it. There may be a solution to creating more of a ‘nook’ feeling that I will try to revisit as I see how the students utilize the space as it is.

The priority of this layout is to facilitate collaboration. Placing bookshelves adjacent to groups of desks occupies valuable floor space, but it can also mean increased access to resources. Observation of the students will determine the success of this theory.

With some easy rearrangement, the open space in the center can become large enough to serve as a work area for larger projects, whole group meeting area, and audience seating for presentations.

I’m quite happy with how the room turned out, although I can see how custom made furniture would make it look stylish. Everyone wants a bit bigger room, but I haven’t felt cramped at any time. Often while pursuing inquiries, students ask to move into the corridor anyway, which makes me consider that perhaps it’s a mistake to think of the classroom walls as boundaries at all!
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