Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

What Will Your Students Say?

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

This is the weirdest thing. I’ve had students fill out anonymous surveys about my teaching (end of semester required ones and mid-semester ones), but suddenly for the first-time ever, I’m having someone conduct an SGID for my class. 

An SGID (Small Group Instructional Diagnosis) is a formative assessment where the teacher leaves the room and someone else (facilitator) comes in and gathers anonymous feedback from students. The process is as follows 

  1. Students work in groups of 4-5 to reach concensus on two questions: what helps you learn in this course? What can be done to improve the course, and how would you improve it?
  2. The facilitator collects the answers and has an open discussion to clarify and probe some of the points students mentioned and gauge how common across the class each sentiment is
  3. The facilitator reports back to the instructor (writing and sometimes meeting) 

Now as a faculty developer I have been doing this for YEARS. More than 10 years now. And I never ever realized how vulnerable a position it puts the teacher in. I mean, I recognized it as such, but not to the extent I feel it now, that it’s about to happen to me. For example, I was really picky about who would do mine. I wanted one of two colleagues (one of whom is observing the class so cannot do it anonymously coz she knows student names, and the other used to be my co-teacher). I think it’s really strange that I was feeling so uncomfortable with having someone else do it. Almost like I need to know the facilitator will be someone who understands my teaching philosophy or something? Or who would break it to me gently if the feedback was bad? I don’t know! 

The stranger thing is that I have a great group of students and I’ve been gathering feedback from them regularly (ish) and I chat with them before/after class and such, but I still imagine there may be things they would only say anonymously. 

I just realized while writing this that I may as well do my own self-assessment for the course. But that’s self-assessing against my own intentions and values 

  1. I think for a first-time ever designed/taught course it is overall going well. But I honestly think this is a function of the quality and enthusiasm of the students. They were pretty awesome before I ever met them. Almost all of them.
  2. I feel like I have done a good variety of in-class activities from small-group to large-group discussions and use of visuals/videos and activities (e.g. privilege walk outdoors, magnet toys to teach about curriculum theory)
  3. My assessments are slightly less varied. Lots of blogposts (at some point I realized from them that some blogposts are skippable and I merged some together when it made sense because if we’re gonna reflect on something in class, no need to rehash online each time). So far, I’ve mostly asked students to reflect on readings on their blogs before they come to class (this ensures many of them actually read and it WORKS). It also gives me student-inspired conversation points. The only creative assessment so far is they created digital narrative games and they’ll do podcasts soon. 
  4. I feel like this group of students were interested in education and so I insert more stuff related to education than initially intended. I also feel they’re interested in exploring Egyptian citizenship themes even though the course is about intercultural learning and digital literacies – so I’m inserting more of that and for rest of semester (based on their feedback) giving them agency to pick topics (and readings, after I offer 1-2 to start with) in groups of 2-3. I should do peer assessment for that, blogposts to be written reflecting on the discussion, and something else…hmmm…
  5. The Plan to do Wikipedia editing didn’t go well. I still need to build on it. Or think of a better plan next time inshallah 
  6. They seem to like the Soliya component and feel well-prepared for it
  7. I am probably REALLY unclear about assessment criteria and grades and such. But I did have a session where we discussed different approaches to grading and I gave them opportunities to assess themselves and discussed with some of them why they might be overestimating their grades.
  8. Expect them to mention workload coz they already told me so
  9. They might mention too many platforms… Don’t know. I haven’t used Twitter but used hypothes.is, Slack, blogging and Blackboard just for assignment deadlines to be clear

Let’s see if they surprise me?

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