When students focused on their failure...

At the end of every semester, my department takes a week and a half to help the students review for their upcoming final exam, which covers everything from the start of the semester to the end. Last year, I had students work on their study guides for half of the period by using the Kagan strategy known as “Rally Coach. " After about half an hour we would then going over the answers.


This semester ended up being different since we only covered four units rather than the usual five, which meant I did not need an entire week and half to review the study guide. I did my typical review lesson with my students, but decided to use the last few days to try a new assignment.


My students and I have been in love with a new app through Google known as Pear Deck. Essentially, it's an application that allows you, the teacher, to create a formative assessment slideshow where students can log on and answer various question types (multiple choice, drawing, short answer, etc.) regarding a particular topic. The best part is that the results can be viewed instantly with the entire class while keeping individual student answers anonymous. Students love seeing their answers and their peers, helping engagement in my classroom. I also enjoy it because the students are having fun while I formatively assess their knowledge.


On Twitter, I had heard of various teachers allowing students to create their own Pear Decks as projects, which they then presented to the class. So that gave me an idea for a review strategy: assign each group various questions on the study guide and have them create their own Pear Deck to present to the class.


Once I walked the students through how to create and share a Pear Deck, the students were off and running creating their own multiple choice Assessments. All my students were actively engaged and were trying desperately to come up with multiple choice questions to quiz their classmates on. This project gave them the opportunity to directly interact with the content and create something new. If you follow me on Twitter (@missmorgan810),  I was very excited about how the students were responding and shared the progress frequently.


When the presentations started on the first day, however, students excitement seemed to drop off.  I began to notice that any feedback from me or the class about the wording of the question or the answers was met with nervousness and fear. It became clear that the presenters saw any feedback as negative, which, to them, made them a failure.


Fearing that failure would become of the focus of all my students, I began the next day by reminding them of my expectations and describing to them what I observed the day before. I explained to them that each of the confusing questions resulted in some of the best conversations we have had all year and that these situations had them arguing and explaining information to one another, which is what I want to see. This seemed to change the dynamic of the classroom for the rest of the presentations once I had taken a positive stance of the perceived failure of some students.


In the end, the Pear Deck project ended up being an overall success (will definitely modify it next semester) and I felt the students were more than ready to take their finals. The student focus on failure, however, remind me how important it is for students to realize that failure is a part of learning and should be celebrated. I have never explicitly explained this to my students, despite the fact that is the focus of my entire blog. This project reminded me how I should begin each semester and project by reminding students that failure is proof of learning and should be embraced, not something to be feared. 

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