Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?
After a couple of exhausting weeks of grading midterm exams, and with the final weeks of the semester looming large, faculty members may be wondering (aloud or not), “How am I going to get through to the end?” A corollary to this plaintive cry is, “How are my students going to make it to the finish line?” The answers may be right at your fingertips; all you need to do is ask!
Take a SIP of this: the Wind-down Wrap-up
In 1993, Angelo and Cross published a seminal work on pedagogical strategies called Classroom Assessment Techniques. This book changed the way that faculty members approach instant-gratification, formative assessment of students by introducing easy-to-use strategies that are designed to be used as in-class activities. The CATs provide data on students’ mastery of concepts and skills and can also serve as metacritical assessment of methodological approach and achievement of course goals and objectives. The authors made a convincing and long-lasting case for improving teaching and learning outcomes by constantly asking students for data that would inform next steps in the classroom.
It is not too late in the semester to ask your students to provide you with data that can help you all get to the finish line in December. You can adapt some of the CATs to learn how your students are doing now and what you can do to help them succeed. Consider these ideas:
- One of the quickest and easiest CATs that Angelo and Cross suggest is a two-question survey, the “Minute Paper,” intended to be implemented at the end of a single class period in one or two minutes’ time (see SIP 2.8). This CAT asks: “What is the most important thing you learned in class today?” and, “What important questions remain unanswered?” Feedback from this survey allows faculty to alter instructional approach or plans in the next class session (like Just-in-Time teaching, SIP 2.10) depending on the class’ comprehension level and expressed curiosity.
- The Minute Paper can be adapted to take your students’ pulse regarding the end of the semester. You might ask, “What is the most important thing you have accomplished so far in this class?” and, “What is the most urgent/important/scary thing you have left to do in this class?” The qualitative answers your students give to this “Wind-down Wrap-up” may inform how you organize the last few weeks of the semester.
- You may choose to ask more questions to get more information. For example, you may ask, “What kind of academic support do you need to finish this semester?” or, “What challenges are you having in finding resources for your final project?” Extra questions can be tailored to the specifics of your class.
- This type of assessment can also help you to know what other kinds of personalized supports your students might need to be successful this semester. You might ask, “Have you registered for classes for next semester yet?” and then follow up with those who say no. You might ask, “Would you like to be connected to any of these on-campus support services?” and then offer a drop-down menu that includes the Counseling Center, resources for food and/or housing insecurity, resources on relationship violence, etc. The most important thing to do when offering these services is to follow through by submitting a CARE report if appropriate or by connecting students to the services they request.
- All approaches to this type of assessment can be delivered via email, by creating a quick Google form (survey) or by creating a quiz in Canvas during this virtual semester (visit the Metropolitan State University of Denver Ready website to learn how to do this). These assessments can be anonymous, or you can attach them to individual students, depending on the questions you ask and the information you are seeking.
- Share some general results with your students after you have evaluated the assessment. No need to read or publish every last comment, but by showing your students you have listened to their thoughts and concerns, you demonstrate that you are on their side and here to support them as they move toward the end of the term.
Asking students to evaluate their experience and then reacting to their honest evaluation may create the buy-in you need to get you to finals week.
Still Thirsty? Take a SIP of this:
Check out the University of Texas faculty innovation center’s take on Midsemester Feedback. Mid-semester feedback may be something you wish to incorporate in next semester’s classes – start planning for that now!