This course is scheduled to be designed in the summer and taught and evaluated in Fall 2006.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

What's Working...Maybe?

After completing the first unit with the system mostly working, I have to document those design details which I like (now are they effective? that's for another class... ;)
  • Scaffolding lessons--lessons especially those dealing with MLA formatting and the rhetorical expectations for an essay seem to benefit from scaffolding. I have been doing this for a while, so I'm not sure that it is something that I am adding new from what I have learned from UDL principles, but I think that they are effective. Using the scaffolding in a systematic and consistent way may be able to give me some evidence as to if it works or not.

Currently, I am using the scaffolding both for MLA and for the essay process. I am concerned that most students will think that the activities are just work designed to keep them busy. To counter that, I am using the peer feedback so they can see how their peers are doing with the lessons, to offer corrections to their peers and so that students can self-correct when they see errors. I think that it is working. I gave them a short one source annotated bibliography quiz to test that assertion. They practiced and peer reviewed last week. This week they had to do it on their own.

The scaffolding of the essay process also seems to be having some effect on the student writing. I have read research which says that students are going to concentrate on only what is required, rather than worrying about the process (have to find that article again) and everything that they already know they should do to produce good writing. So I am including the different parts of the process as part of the scaffolding. Many of them mentioned in their introductions that when they write, they just sit at the computer and "let it come out." So I let them do that when we began last week.

We started with an essay answering the question/prompt which was given about their learning strategies. Then we followed that with research, both a learning styles inventory, an academic article and some research (one internet article). After summarizing their findings, they were asked to rewrite or begin again, using more specific prompting questions. We discussed purpose and audience and incorporating their research findings into their essays. We covered thesis and topic sentences, beginnings and endings. They turned in the draft. Then we did some peer reveiw. Most students did not submit lengthly comments but the suggestions they gave did give their peers something to revise. Then they turned in their essay. Finally, we focused on a revision exercise. We looked at sentence structure, pov, informal/formal language, word choice/repetition, weak sentence beginnings. Then they revised and turned in their essay again.

I also decided to keep the idea of the mini-portfolio for each unit. I am having the students reflect on their work each week in the weekly reports and I am having them select two pieces which they think are representative of their learning and discuss how those pieces show their learning and growth.

One thing that I have not had much opportunity to do is to give individual feedback. I have decided that I have designed the activities so that the students get feedback from each other, I look at their posts and give them feedback which is relevant to most of them on camera. I know that I will not be able to do that in the online course but so far it has been working well with the students. Many of them are becoming much more responsible with the feedback which they give their peers and I have to give them more specific "requirements" for the discussion; otherwise, they will just write "it was good."

The scaffolding is also reflected in the titles for each of the sections of the unit. We begin with "what you know" then move to "research", then to "share new Knowledge" then to "incorporate old and new" and finally to the "mini-portfolio" which is finalizing, selection and reflection. Each part of the writing process is incorporated into one of the sections. I am also trying to make the sections as "recursive" as possible so they can hopefully internalize that concept about writing.

I am working on a survey to assess the videos. I am not sure how effective they have been up to this point.

One thing that I did not include in my planning of the design of the course is the goal-setting. I am thinking that when I teach it again, I will incorporate that into the beginning and connect it with the weekly reports. How effective is student being about setting goals which they meet? I also think that by the end of the course they may be setting goals which include the process rather than just getting the assignment completed. I wonder if the goal setting can show that the scaffolding of the process works to help the student internalize the process. Big question mark here. This is something which I want to work on maybe in the Spring delivery of this course.

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