As the summer approached I became more and more conflicted as to how to assess my students. Many options existed including timed, self grading quizzes in Google Forms, video assessments via FlipGrid, etc. To simplify things, I elected to use a Google Doc template for all assessments where students completed responses and calculations and then shared the doc with me for assessment.
Inherent to the above process was TRUSTING that students would do the work individually, without notes or text, given that no systems existed within the technology I was using to ensure individual work. Moreover, the thought of doing live assessments over Zoom where I could see students working via web cam did not sit well with me. That being said, I still had a hunch, that some student answers, primarily questions that were algorithmic in nature (Stoichiometry, etc.), were not authentic.
During the last few weeks of distance learning, I created new format/template for all calculation-based questions that, in addition to requiring a correct numerical answer, also involved reflection in a such a way that could not be "Googled", forcing students to reflect on their understanding of the process they employed to arrive at their answer AND a conceptual explanation of the phenomena at hand. Essentially, I was trying to create a meaningful format for assessing in the distance learning setting driven by the question structure NOT the technology.
Below is an example of an initial question, and then a modified version that incorporates a second meta-reflection piece to assess for potential (for a lack of better word) "cheating" in the distance learning setting:
Initial Question Example
Modified Question Example
The template used in the modified question above can be layered on top of any calculation in my chemistry class. With respect to grading, I chose to award 1 pt for the correct answer to #1 in the modified version, and 4 points for the meta-reflection piece. One point for each answer within the template.
The modified process accomplished two things: First, it added an assessment where, even if the calculation portion was one gathered via a system such a Wolfram Alpha, etc. (see example solution to above problem here), students would be forced to reflect on their process, something that could not be generated online. Second, by allocating more points to the reflection process, a message was sent that I valued that process more than the calculation, setting a precedent that I hope to carry into the face-to-face instruction...whenever that resumes.
Full disclosure: The modified version is MUCH harder to grade. So yeah, there's that :). The cognitive dissonance behind using the assessment as a learning tool. Never easy.
Since concluding emergency/triage distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, I have spent the first two weeks of the summer facilitating online professional development for various schools and districts as they prepare for the inevitable integration of some form of distance learning in the fall.
In preparation for keynote presentations and breakout sessions, I forced myself to create a simplified model of the online teaching structure that I implemented in my own classes. Click here, and see the screenshot below, for the model that I ended up with after weeks of iteration per student feedback over 10 weeks of online teaching. Click here for a variation of the model that includes links to sample lessons that fit within each phase represented in the model.
Click here or here if your school is interested in collaborating around professional development in preparation for the upcoming fall semester. Click here if you are are interested in collaborating in a personalized 1-on-1 fashion.
My instruction for this period of EMERGENCY distance learning is over, and thus, this will be my last formal post reflecting on the process.
Click here for an archive of all reflections during this time. My colleagues and I are in the process of brainstorming potential models for reintegration in the fall, and Jennifer Gonzales does a fabulous job outlining potential options here.
I will be writing about next steps as they develop, along with sharing instructional strategies, and FAILURES, etc., as they happen. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, although shared sporadically over the course of this reflection series, below are direct links to all the major resources that were developed for during this time.
Lessons (includes forms, created videos, simulations, assessments and Q&A docs)
This week marks the beginning of review for online finals exams next. Today's biochemistry class was spent with students working through a collaborative practice final exam while I fielded questions in our online Q&A document and on Zoom. This practice final is designed to expose student the basic factual content of the exam. Think interactive study guide rather than a list of facts to prepare for a more conceptually challenging task for the final exam that will incorporate those raw skills. Math facts vs. math application, etc.
I enjoy this leveraging this strategy as it forces students to reflect on their understanding of the material through a lens of Lower Blooms Taxonomy, then reflect on possible applications of that material on the actual assessment. From a technology perspective, I attempted to add an interactive element to the above practice quiz. Rather than asking students to list the steps of protein synthesis, I screencasted this video, removed sound, and then challenged students to fill out the below template (see screenshot) as they watched the video. A simple pedagogical move, but given the outstanding visuals in the video, I am hopeful that the process helps students connect the factual process of protein synthesis with the beautify of our unseen biochemical world.
As the end of the year approaches, I am finding myself struggling to reflect on anything I haven't already discussed. So, in the spirit of continued reflective practice, I thought I would use this post to share the lessons I created and facilitated in my classes yesterday and today as they represent "Tech Mashups" that I have found myself using consistently, and thus, combinations that are meaningful to my practice.
In chemistry class yesterday I reviewed student solutions to a lab simulation, provided additional instruction, and then assigned a new simulation activity. Below are links to activities along with tech mashups listed.
In biology class today I reviewed student questions to a series of instructional videos (click here for process description), then assigned a new related task, and a final modeling task related to the two previous activities. Below are links to activities along with tech mashups.