Student AGENCY

The word of the week is AGENCY, specifically student agency.  For approximately five years, I have been asking students to reflect on their tests by answering a series of questions that requires them to consider their process of preparing for the test and respond to their errors in content understanding.  Ultimately, the goal is to pause for reflection because without intentional reflection, students will merely look at their grade and move on.  But that’s not where meaningful learning occurs.  The meaningful learning occurs when we look at our mistakes and figure out how to avoid those errors in the future.

I used to ask students to complete a paper and pencil evaluation/reflection of their assessment that asked them to say whether each test correct was correct or incorrect, and why it was incorrect: silly mistake, more studying needed, etc. (Figure 1).  Then, the form asked students to look for patterns in their missed learning targets.  In other words, where do they have trends of missed answers?  Was there one particular term or concept that caused a hang up?  In the various forms of assessment questions, was one concept consistently missed?  Did you miss more in the multiple-choice section but not the fill in the blank section?  This is a more holistic reflection as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 1

Figure 2

The students would then turn these papers in to me, and I would look over them and make adjustments to my teaching.  And while there was not anything particularly wrong with this process, today I had an organic breakthrough that enhanced this whole process tenfold because it was more focused on the students than it was my teaching.

Today, instead of having the students complete the evaluation/reflection on paper, I had them complete a Google Forms version of the same document, which allowed me to view and respond to their feedback immediately, in real time.  I then addressed specific student concerns right away.  For example, one student said, “It would be helpful to me if you would allow us to use scratch paper on the test.”  While this student never thought to ask me the day of the test, I was able to give him instant feedback that he is always welcome to use scratch paper.  Other students identified their weaknesses in the content, and I met with them in small groups of students with similar misconceptions to immediately remedy those sticking points.  The value of this kind of immediate feedback for both the students and me has totally changed this process because it allows for face-to-face acknowledgement and clarification that makes us all better off.

From here, I will give students an opportunity to demonstrate mastery of the content through a test corrections and reassessment process.  This process is catered to specific students based on the results of their original assessment and the feedback the provided on the evaluation/reflection directly following the assessment.  Ultimately, these small changes have drastically decreased my response time to be more helpful to students, and this process coupled with test corrections and reassessment allows students to remedy their mistakes and misconceptions to increase understanding today (and hopefully by the time we get to the final exam at the end of the semester).