ImagineIT: Phase Five - Conferring with Colleagues + Student Focus Group
To address the challenge of implementing authentic audiences into the curriculum, and assessing presentable project-based work, my colleagues advised me to incorporate two major elements. First, to measure content standards within projects, to use rubrics with specific content benchmarks, and run a question and answer session after each project where student audiences are prompted to generate questions, following a designed protocol, which are then collected by the teacher who asks the questions to the presenting group (to avoid plagiarism). Second, to confront possible student unwillingness to present work, to change the format of presentations to allow for a teacher-only audience, small stations in a larger event, or YouTube presentations as needed. Students informed me that the rubrics used so far have been clearly structured, that rubric-graded project work is a fairer assessment of their skills than a traditional quiz, and that they feel that the course has incorporated enough time for feedback and revision before final submission. They requested a master checklist of tasks for each unit/project, because of concerns at the overwhelming nature of being presented with wide scope overviews of assignments and content to be covered at the beginning of a project, and balancing project work and more traditional content work at the same time. I plan to incorporate both of the elements identified by my colleagues into my ImagineIT, as well as students’ request for a master task list, and their enthusiasm for the idea of using Instagram to document class happenings and real world connections using class hashtags. These suggestions address my assessment concerns regarding fair evaluation of project work, student resistance to participate in sharing learning with outside audiences, and striking a balance between content and skill work. Some students expressed a desire to go back to more traditional lecture-based modes of instruction, which I believe is mostly due to anxieties over change, which I believe will ease with time, and so will not be incorporating into my project, although I would like to find a structure for students to request lectures on specific topics while working through a unit/project. This request for more lecture shocked me, as many teachers struggle to keep students’ attention during this form of instruction. The most significant comment I received from students was that they were overwhelmed balancing the project work alongside traditional content work, so as I refine implementation of my ImagineIT project, I will strive to break the work into smaller targets, provide a sense of time and scale, and set pacing benchmarks for the students.