Saturday, December 24, 2011

What did we learn?

At the end of each semester, I try to make sure that my learners have time to reflect. If their learning is to last, then they must have a chance to consolidate it. This past semester I used three workshops to support their efforts to look back and look forward.

The first workshop asked the learners to focus on the course objectives.

They identified those in which they considered themselves proficient and what contributed to their proficiency. So much occurs during a semester and too often learners do not recognize what was learned. This task represents a metacognitive activity that makes it more likely that the learners will be aware of all they have accomplished. It also provides me with important assessment data that will inform how I teach the course in the future.

In the next workshop, learners write letters to future students as a way to prepare and encourage them to be successful in my course. Here are two from this semester:

I will share the letters with future learners because people often accept advice more easily from their peers than their teachers. This is not the sole reason for the activity, however. It also provides the letter writers with the chance to reflect on their own growth as learners over the semester. I hope that both current and future learners will benefit from this wisdom borne out of experience.

The final workshop asks them to create a 3 minute (or less) TED Talk about what they have learned this semester. This year I found out the power of showing the Student vs Learner clips early on. Many of them commented on how these videos helped to frame the entire semester. I will now try using them the first day in all of my courses.

The presentations are ungraded and usually very informal. Amazingly, this sometimes leads to more preparation on the part of the learners. Regardless of the time they put into them, I find their sharing to be quite profound and at times moving. Here is an example from this semester:

I remember teachers saying to me, "You'll thank me for this later." This typically accompanied some particularly distasteful tasks. I bristle at this notion and hold the belief that I am not in this for people's thanks but because I believe in what I do. Still, I hope I am getting better at accepting people's gratitude as well as their criticisms. After all, both are a part of the learning process.

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