Thursday, May 25, 2017

Still Learning from Grading.

Ms. Jackie Whiting accepting the Carlton W.H. Erickson award
A huge congratulations goes to Jackie Whiting  for winning the Connecticut Association of School Librarians' (CASL) Carlton W. H. Erickson Award! This award is issued to a new-to-the-field school librarian who has "made an auspicious beginning in media services at the building level through contributions to the students, faculty, lay citizens, and/or instructional program of the school, school system, educational agency, or institution wherein the nominee/applicant is employed."

Ms. Whiting was honored at the organization's spring gathering on Tuesday evening. Here is an excerpt from her nomination, "in class after class, and meeting after meeting, Jackie introduced innovative ideas, thoughtful pedagogies, and effective strategies that dazzled me, our collaborating faculty, and impressed our students as well."

We keep writing about the same thing because it continues to teach us about what students know, and how we can improve our instructional program.

As we've mentioned, we have been offering students a chance to get very speedy feedback on their bibliographies twice per week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) since mid April. They submit their work through ta Google form. We review student work on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Truthfully, this is a challenging task and it is not a sustainable offering, but we are learning so much!

Since April 19th, 339 bibliographies have been submitted. Students are often surprised by how many mistakes they make. Many, many times over the past few weeks students have assured us that they got it all right only to find out that they earned a score of 3 out of 5 (the most common grade). Remember, this does not impact their grade, it only gives them a chance to improve their work before submitting it to their classroom teacher.

On April 7, we blogged about the system. Today, we will share what we've learned since then.
  • Students are eager for feedback. Several students submitted work for review in several courses, and many submitted multiple revisions. 
  • We need to streamline the system. In a perfect world, the spreadsheet would email students their score and comments the second we added it to the right cell, but we haven't figured out how to do that. We hope to tap into our Senior Interns' talents to help us write a script that would do that. 
  • Students in different grades make different mistakes. While this is not surprising to us, it is the first time we have had quantifiable evidence that students require different research guidance at different grade levels. What follows is a rough breakdown about how research instruction progresses as they move through the high school. While this is not new, we now have information that will help us meet very specific learning needs identified thought this process.
    • Freshmen need very clear parameters for their research. We've had great success with assignments that require one New York Times article, one website, and one multimedia source (TED, NPR, BBC, PBS, etc.).
    • Those parameters work well with sophomores too, but 10th graders do best when we build the parameters around the research continuum: 
      • Wonder: Reference
      • Investigate: News
      • Investigate: Academic Journal
      • Synthesize: Book (digital or print)
      • Synthesize: Primary source
    • Juniors need the freedom to find the resources that best meet their learning needs. This is a critical element of the research process and it is something they must master before leaving New Canaan High School regardless of what they do next. The process is the same whether researching a new car to buy or working on a doctorate in Physics. Fortunately, juniors have two intensive research experiences in two disciplines, usually with two separate teachers (except for the American Studies students). Their research guidance comes earlier as we help them at different intervals as they move through the inquiry process: topic -> research question -> research journals -> bibliography -> thesis statement -> outline
    • While we teach the difference between reporting and opining as early as 10th grade, senior research experiences involve analyzing nuance among points of view through the careful analysis of author craft. Senior year is when students learn a new citation format (APA), and fine-tuning the research skills they worked on in prior grades. 
  • Formatting a page is the most common mistake (33% of submissions). This is good news as formatting a page is the easiest problem to correct. We made a 30 second video to teach students how: 

  • Here are the rest of the common mistakes. They have changed quite a bit since the last time we published them. Hover over the graph to see full explanations.

  • Our comment bank needs to be streamlined. We've been working on that, but it is not yet ready. As we consolidate comments we are making them more instructive - not just explaining what's wrong but also why it is the way it is, and how to fix it. 
  • Students improve their score by one point with each revision. For example, a student who submits a 2 will improve to a 3 after incorporating recommendations and resubmitting. They they will receive further feedback and improve the 3 to a 4, and so on. You may ask, "Why not bump from a 2 to a 5 on the first try?" The feedback system is a little complicated as it tells them what they got wrong holistically, not specifically pointing to the place in the bibliography or the citation where the error occurs. This is the only way we can generate the volume of feedback required in the short amount of time needed for the system to work. Moreover, there is instructional value to making students do the heavy lifting. They learn more this way. When we surveyed freshmen back in January after a research experience, they said:
    • I did not understand how to write citations very well after I wrote them.
    • I just corrected what the librarians told me to correct.
    • Would have been beneficial for you to explain in more detail the order of things within our citations.
    • Explaining why the citations need to be so specific would probably helpful.
  •   We met wth the Writing Center faculty and reviewed the new MLA 8 help page with them. They gave us a few pointers on what to improve. Among them was the request to make these slides a stand-alone offering and move it to the top: 


  • We have yet to obtain feedback from teachers on the system. Yet we know that they are encouraging students to use it, so they must like something about it!

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