The first week of school, I gave my students a survey about how they can best show me what they are learning, and a large majority suggested group work. Now, I’ve never been much of a fan of group work. I remember scrambling to draw a picture about a Jack London story in 9th grade because my partner decided not to do his part; I’ve been the “victim” of the group paper with plagiarized material twice…I just hate group work. However, it’s only fair to listen to my students when I ask for their input.
My journey into preparing group work has been ok at best. One on hand, I’m thankful for the group work because some ELL students that speak the same language can work together and help each other. Also, it means less work for me to grade! However, I know that I need to really learn more about group work before I expect my students to learn effectively from it. A google search revealed the following article, and it gave me some insight as to how I could be presenting and grading these projects.
The article is titled “Assessing Group Work” and is an excerpt from “Assessing Learning in Australian Universities” written by James, R., McInnis, C., and Devlin, M. So here are a few things that stood out to me. Some may seem pretty simple, but important nonetheless!
- students should be clear on the purpose and objective of the assignment
- worries over group work often come from the assignment not be assessed or graded fairly
- do not overuse the group project-type assignment
- ensure that groups are working well together – students should spend time working on the project, not figuring out how to get along!
- pros and cons of different grading methods: the article contains several charts showing the advantages and disadvantages of different grading methods (i.e. self-assessment, shared group grade, averaged grades, and so on.) Some of these I had never heard of…some I did not like at all, and others seemed rather interesting.
Bottom line for me: I’m going to work out something with my students to figure out what works best for them. I think I would prefer for them to use a combination of strategies where, for larger projects, students do some self-reporting and comment on the group as a whole (with the opportunity to mention if someone did more work than others). I will also assign a grade and average them together or combine them in some way. For future projects, I will be sure to include a rationale on why I chose this method of assessment and I will be sure to include a clear objective of what I want them to learn.
One of my goals for this semester is to take time to reflect on my class. This can be difficult because it’s not always fun. However, in an effort to become a better teacher and to push myself beyond what is comfortable, it is definitely a necessity! I will probably use this space primarily for reflection and research, as another one of my goals is to research and implement new assessment strategies and projects. My PNW class is made up of 13 students, 8 of which are international students with limited English proficiency. I want to bring things into the classroom that will help them learn best. The class has expressed interest in doing group projects, so I have been trying to set up activities in a way that they can work together. My hope for this class is that I will be able to give them assignments that will allow them to “discover” the history of the Pacific Northwest rather than simply hearing me prattle on about it (which I could easily do – I love my home!)
This week was a good opportunity for me to exercise my new-ish and improving classroom management skills. On Monday, things were a bit hectic. The juniors were gone on a field trip, and I was once against asked to sub for the freshmen English classes. This meant that I spend all day with the same students, and I am proud to say that I stood my ground in the classroom management area! There were several times in which students were acting in ways that I felt inappropriate, and I had to follow through with consequences for their actions. It was an improvement over last week, that’s for sure!
Wednesday though Friday went well, again considering the fact that we are rapidly nearing the end of the school year! I have begun to modify my lessons to include less lecture and note-taking and more group work with some sort of assignment due at the end of the period to hold the students accountable.
One thing that I have continued to think about from last week’s reading is the fact that the students should be doing, essentially, more work than the teacher. As a result, I tried using different activities this week that gave students the opportunity to work together to learn while I walked around the room, keeping students on tasks and answering questions. I’ll admit that I enjoyed it very much; the students enjoy interacting with one another and I enjoy the fact that I am not at the front of the room the entire class period telling students what to do!
While last week’s readings were helpful, but I cannot exactly say I feel the same way about this week’s reading from The First Days of School. Quite frankly, I did not think it “the most important unit in the book for [me] personally.” Many of the ideas either seemed like broad generalizations or rather restrictive categories. Either way, it is important to analyze our behavior and reasons behind our actions. I think much of that can be done through self-reflection and input from others around you. In addition, it is important for teachers (both old and new) to seek to better themselves through more education and keeping up with new information.
This Professional Development Plan is only the beginning of my reflections as a teacher. This document demonstrates how I have grown as a reflective teacher that is committed to professional and growth-centered practice. The strategies mentioned in this document are ideas that I will continue to use throughout my career as I continually develop and grow as a teacher.
Professional Development Plan
I wanted to share this lesson that I created for the American history class. I felt like the lesson went really well; students were engaged and shared some very meaningful responses to the lesson afterwards. As I planned this lesson I tried to focus on having a variety of activities to keep students interest throughout the period. By starting with a song by an artist that most of the students would know, I could tell that they were eager to hear more about how the song related to our topic for the day. The reading excerpt that students read in class and finished as homework details the life of a Japanese American girl living in the Seattle area during World War II. As the students read about her experience, they could recognize landmarks and cities from their own area, which helped them make more personal connections to the story. Finally, in the PowerPoint lecture I tried to include pictures that would show students how severe the situation was for many people. The pictures were also helpful in showing students how the city of Seattle was affected during this time.
The attached documents include the lesson plan, song lyrics, PowerPoint, and reading excerpts used in class.
Japanese Internment lesson plan