The Classroom Experiment (Part 1 and 2)
If nothing else, this video goes to show that technology is a critical tool for education. This video is from the U.K. and was posted to YouTube for people all over the world to view and learn from.
These videos document the experiment of trying to improve student achievement with a test group using several different strategies. The students are challenged with the “lolly pop sticks,” the coloured “cups,” fitness time in the morning, mini white boards, comments not grades, and “secret student.”
The lolly pop sticks are simply popsicle sticks with every student’s name on it. The experiment abolished the use of raising hands to answer questions; instead, sticks are drawn when the teacher wants to ask a question. This is to randomly select students rather than picking the same students repeatedly. While I agree that asking the same students the questions all of the time is not beneficial to the other students, I do not agree with this method. Many studies show that male students are picked more frequently than female students to participate. I think that using the sticks randomly does not promote gender equity, so I would rather select students ahead of time when I am planning my lesson. This ensures that everyone has a fair opportunity to contribute to the class discussion, while taking some accountability as a teacher to close the gaps of gender inequity.
The coloured cups are a system to signal one’s level of understanding to the teacher. There are three cups, one of each a green, yellow and red cup. The green cup symbolizes that the student understands what the teacher is presenting and does not require additional help. The yellow cup signifies that the student needs the teacher to slow down or repeat a step or phrase while the red cup means that the student does not understand what is being said and requires immediate assistance. Although I think this is a useful system as it allows teachers to recognize whether there are questions about the material and the levels that the students are on, I am not sure how this would work in an older class.
Another idea that this group explored was to see if having a burst of exercise for 10 minutes in the morning before class would help improve attention span. The study showed that there was improvements as time passed, even though students were reluctant to try it out in the beginning. I think it is a great idea, as it stimulates activity in different areas of the brain. This is the main idea behind using “brain breaks” in the classroom, which are short intervals of physical activity when engagement is low.
Another idea presented in these videos is the usage of mini white boards. This idea is supposed to allow all students a chance to participate and answer questions simultaneously. Here, when the teacher poses a question students reply on the boards and then raise it for the teacher and other students to see. It also allows students who do not understand the material to get assistance from their peers. This approach can be used with simple questions, to get a scaled number of familiarity with a topic, or to illustrate ideas when students have trouble articulating, which can be especially helpful for EAL or ESL students.
Yet another strategy to improve student achievement is using comments not grades. I know from my own experiences that the majority of students prefer to flip to the back of the assignment and get the grade, instead of taking the time to read the comments by the teacher. This is disappointing, because it is often those descriptive comments that can aid in the student’s learning and show where exactly needs improvements. One idea that I have for using this approach in my future secondary English classrooms is to have my students write at least three essays during the semester. I would provide feedback on each paper, but no mark. Students would be expected to make the appropriate changes and choose one of these essays to hand in to be graded. This way, the students have a variety of feedback and choice in their assignment but it can still be a polished piece.
The final strategy was to have a “secret student” each day. The teachers would know who it was but the students would have no idea who was selected. They were all told that if they behaved well they would get checks from each class; however, if they did not behave well they would get an “x.” If this student had a majority of checks from the day the class would get a point, and at the end of the semester if they had enough points they were rewarded. While I recognize the subtle goal of self- and peer-monitoring, I do not agree that this idea would work with all, especially older, students. Many students would see this as a bribe and simply refuse to participate. Another issue relates to finances: who pays for the reward?
Each of these assessment strategies were tested and tried, and in this environment they succeeded. These strategies may different in the appropriate age group, but nonetheless they can be efficient ways to improve the achievement in your classroom. The majority of these strategies are also self-assessed and self-monitored so that the student is active in their learning.
To see this and more click on the links below to watch it for yourself!