Reflection: Adjustments to Practice Diving Deeper in the Human Body Systems (Day 3 of 4) - Section 3: The Classroom Flow: Learning from Student Created Presentations

 

Every year, no matter how much I plan for group progress check ins or build in class work time, there are always 1-2 groups that turn in work below the quality level expected for project work.  Sometimes this is the result of poor planning, other times it is due to poor group dynamics or a general end of the year checking-out process that some students might experience as the summer is in sight.  

Approaching students with the news that the work they have turned in isn't quite where it needs to be can result in emotional responses either because one student wound up doing more than their share and feel frustrated both by how that translated into the final quality of the project as the general issue of work equity within the group process.  

For me as a teacher, I am not particularly interested in assigning very low grades to group project work; it feels counterproductive to my learning goals and can result in frustrated or angry students, especially at the end of the year when stress is running high going into final exams and cumulative grades.

I find that the best way to discuss this is to ask the entire group into my office to discuss their work.  Before explaining my thoughts and asking for assistance in rectifying the situation, I ask the following questions:

  • How was it working on this project?
  • What do you like best about your project?
  • Are you happy with the overall end result of your work?
  • What would you change if you could?

Oftentimes, these will be enough to give me an opening to organically bring up areas I would like to see improved.  Students might mention it was really hard getting together or that one student wound up doing a lot due to scheduling issues.  At that point, I can say how much I liked specific things about the work but that I too thought there were some things to improve upon.  If the case is that one person did do more than their fair share of work, I can very easily bring in equity issues in grading in a way that the students can agree that the issue should be rectified so that I can finally grade the project and give each member of the group an appropriate shared grade.

The next question I ask after laying out what i need in order to grade the project is very simple:

  • What do you think we can do to fix the issue? 

Most of the time, students will readily offer/generate their own solutions--specific students will offer to add something before a regrade or the students who didn't do their fair share will suggest they do some additional solo writing to turn into me so that they can share in the group grade.  If students struggle, I do one of two things:  I either suggest an option that I have already decided would work for me or I ask them to discuss the issue in private and get back to me tomorrow with their suggestions.  My decision to do one or the other depends entirely on the feel I get from the kids during our meeting--do they seem eager to deal with the issue or are they sitting with arms crossed with eye rolls happening?  Are there internal things that are clearly on the table that they are not willing or able to talk to me about in that moment?  If the meeting doesn't feel like it is going in the direction toward a student directed improvement plan, I ask them to take the evening to discuss and that we will meet again as a group the following day.  I have never had a group come back the next day unwilling or unprepared to go forward in a positive way.  

There are times when a single student may come to me privately in order to express frustration about a specific partner.  Depending upon the students involved, I may just work with the student who came to me themselves, asking them what they would like me to do and then considering it or offering something that is more in line with what I feel is appropriate; often, they simply just want me to know or to talk to the other student.  It is important to me to make sure students feel heard in these rare situations so that they aren't turned off to the idea of positive collaborative group work experiences going forward in their academic and professional lives to come.  

I hope these guidelines help navigate these at times awkward but necessary conversations.  When I have handled them this way, with open questioning sessions at the start of the conversation to generate student thinking and communication, the revised final products tend to be quite good and students leave feeling valued and grateful rather than frustrated or angry, a win for all of us!

 

  Redirecting Student Poster Presentations Effectively for a High Quality Product
  Adjustments to Practice: Redirecting Student Poster Presentations Effectively for a High Quality Product
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Diving Deeper in the Human Body Systems (Day 3 of 4)

Unit 10: Unit 10: Human Anatomy & Physiology
Lesson 7 of 9

Objective: SWBAT discuss each body system in depth through the creation of and interaction with student created presentations.

Big Idea: Allow your students to be the teachers during this engaging lesson series of student created human body system presentations!

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