Tuesday, April 23, 2013

SLO's in the (online) Art Room

Since December I have been working with my team to prepare for next year, the first year that teachers will be measured in the art classroom based on assessments that (hopefully) show student growth. A Student Learning Objective (SLO) will be created which shows goals for students in your classroom based on certain data (example from ODE). The way we will measure if students meet these goals are assessments called Student Growth Measures (SGM). More information about SGM from ODE can be found here
As you may know, I have given a pilot assessment to my students to see what a pre-assessment and post-assessment could look like in the Art 1 classroom and what issues may come up. The pre-assessment was given to 4 different sections of Art 1. Two sections gave a test with multiple-answer, multiple-choice, essay, and short answer questions. The other two sections gave a pre-assessment with multiple-choice, short answer, and essay questions. I did this to see how different types of questions may or may not show student growth. So far, the data has been helpful to seeing what students already know and don't know when entering my classroom. More about data collected here. However, we did run into a few issues along the way.
One of these issues is collecting reliable and objective data that tests student knowledge. I mentioned we used essay questions on this pre-assessment. Though this is a great way for students to explain their knowledge, it was difficult to grade the content opposed to a student's writing style/skill. Even though we had a rubric, grading was subjective and the results varied in a large way between different teachers (see above). Since we are being evaluated on this data as teachers, it is important that our assessments provide reliable and valid results. 
Changes have been made to the test since we first gave it to create one solid version that does not include essays or short answer. This is the version that will be used next year. We included multiple-choice (making sure every question as 4 choices) and multiple-answer questions. To create the final (for now) version of the pre-assessment and post-assessment, we looked though the scope and sequence of our course, the existing questions on the test, and student results. The assessment includes at least one question about each topic in the course.
3. What kind of drawing is a quick sketch that captures what the artist sees?
A. Portrait
B. Point-of-view
C. Gestural
D. Linear Perspective 

I am also currently working on a SGM for my Art 5 class but because this course is so independent it is difficult/impossible to create a multiple-choice type of assessment for it. Therefore, I am considering reviewing student portfolios as they enter and at the end of the course. If graded by an unbiased source (someone outside of my classroom) using a rubric, perhaps I could get reliable and valid data from this method. I will also be able to see where students are coming from and what their strengths and weaknesses are before I begin working with them. 
I look forward to the weeks to come when I will be giving my post-assessment and be able to see if my students have grown. I will continue to post my results from this assessment journey I am on!

Friday, April 12, 2013

My Experience as an Online Student

It is a bit embarrassing to share with you that until recently I had never taken an online class. Throughout high school and college, all of my coursework has been in person. Though I feel I’ve done a good job of learning about effective online curriculum and teaching strategies, I obviously only knew one side of the story. There are many things I wonder about when it comes to my students. Why did they do this assignment, but not that one? Why don’t they make more of an effort to stay on track? How can you be this far behind? Why on earth would you do 10 assignments in one night?! Thus, I conducted an experiment myself of what I would be like as a student in their shoes. For this experiment I used free online coursework provided by Class-central.com in conjunction with the Open Learning Initiative. “The Open Learning Initiative offers online courses to anyone who wants to learn or teach. Our aim is to combine open, high-quality courses, continuous feedback, and research to improve learning and transform higher education,” (Carnegie Mellon on OLI). I enrolled in Spanish 1 in late December, a course where a grade and certificate is received by participants. In my Spanish class there were over 4,000 students enrolled (makes my 260 students seem like a small number!). I was ready to begin.

I started very motivated about doing well in this course. I completed all the assignments I could in the beginning, which to my surprise included watching several videos and completing a written and spoken assignment. At first, I hoped Week 1 would include a quiz rather than the written assignment because to me that felt like a quick and simple way to accomplish something in my class. Aha! First realization: students often do all the open quizzes in my class before attempting an art project. Why? Perhaps it is because they also feel like a quiz is a quick way to accomplish something, to fill something in on their grade book, and to see how they are doing. However, the projects are worth more of their grade and focus on students putting their learning into practice by demonstrating mastery of a concept.

The next several weeks went well. I found myself logging in once a week to complete my homework. This of course meant I was spending quite a bit of time all at once getting things done, and I was only taking ONE course. Many of my students take 5 courses at once. It would be smarter for me to login multiple times a week to get my assignments done in smaller chunks, but it takes a lot of dedication to find the time during my busy week to do this. Second realization: Online learning takes dedication, time management, and self-discipline! This is really no surprise to me, but it takes more than I once imagined.

In the beginning I received feedback from every assignment I submitted, usually a couple days after I submitted it. As the course went on, the number of assignments that the grading team had to look through became much higher and the feedback I was receiving seemed to drop off completely. A week went by, two weeks, and still no grade for my recent assignments. Finally, it had been a month since receiving any feedback or grades and I also stopped submitting work. Without feedback or contact from my teacher, I did not login to my class for 4 long weeks! I thought to myself, “I am my worst student.” If even a motivated person like myself was capable of blowing off classwork for an entire month, of course my students could. Many of them have distractions like myself: full time jobs, family issues, and whatever else life throws at them. However, I do always make sure to give timely feedback. Realization three: It is easy to get more behind than you realize and timely feedback is essential for student motivation.

At four weeks behind, the option of giving up and just retaking this class later (or not) sounded pretty good to me. But wait! How on earth can I encourage my students to be successful in this online environment if I myself choose not to succeed? Realization four: giving up is easy, but it is not the best option! So I got back on. I worked over spring break. I buckled down and got it done. In the end, I was able to come back and catch up. I took the quizzes and re-took the quizzes. I studied and worked on the assignments until I got it all done. As behind as I was, the system was quite forgiving in letting me catch back up on what I had missed. This is a plus to online learning, and perhaps even required in this environment.

Through this experience I have gained insight and empathy for my students. My “why’s” have been answered, and I have learned some Spanish along the way. I will use these insights when speaking with students and working with them to help them login and succeed. It is not as easy as you would think, but that just means we all need to work on our self-discipline and use the tools at our disposal. Together we can do it!