Gradual Release


This was an interesting roll out this semester. I attempted to avoid the busy work of setting up student eNotebooks, registering for my

Website, then experiencing and overview unit. In the past, students thought that this set up process was the course itself, building tools to get ready to learn, and I lost a few. This year it was a bit different.

I waiting several days to get the systems in place and instead, ran a type of show and tell session instead. I gave students the time to explore all the electronic instruments in the department and then play with Logic after a brief explanation with video support for those that were absent. For the most part it worked well. I did not lose a single student.

What I did not account for was that when the students did start to work within the system of the blend I built, they did not have the insight of how to navigate the work. I thought I was giving them a degree of freedom on how to present evidence of their learning, but for the youngest in the class, they had no clue as how to proceed.

The youngest students had very little impulse control and got lost in playing with the software and then eventually finding youtube. I nipped it pretty quick and then found that I had to walk this cohort through the first unit, step by step. I modeled each activity for them and slow released myself, hoping they would stay on task and do the next part of their research.

I had provided a list of key concepts that they would need to understand for the first level. I had walked everyone through the concepts and had provided a set of resources that they could use if they got stuck.

An additional video of me teaching the level 1 concept was embedded into my site as well. Even with all these resources, the youngest students needed constant guidance. They were waiting to be told what to do and had little interest in figuring out anything unless they "HAD" to. There was no intrinsic motivation to engage, even when the tools are pretty fun to use and creative. The challenge really was having them create any documentation of their learning. One student just started playing with the software without using any of my resources. I watched him over two classes essentially get very little done. This was after a couple one on one sessions where I attempted to get him up to speed. The student was not verbal and could not engage with me. I found myself getting frustrated and recognized that he was triggering me. I kept that in check but was forced to look very carefully at why this student was not connected. Then I remembered... he joined the class late and missed the original explanation of how the course works. He had no hook.

I went home and sat down and did another video that outlined how to navigate and work in the class. Expectations and pathways through material. I showed this to him and owned the problems he was having.

I shared it with the other younger students and it seems to pick up the pace for them for a class or two.

The most important revelation that I had was the use of the Habits of Learning as a tool to help students learn how to learn in my classroom. Through self assessment and teacher assessment, we have been able to diagnose the learning challenges that each student is facing as an individual. Having the tool to do this allowed me to objectively modify behavior based on a standard that ensures that learning can occur. As an example: In the learning scale for Habits, one indicator is "Using technology appropriately, avoiding distractions from social media, etc." When student ran into this challenge, I highlighted it on the learning scale paper and gave it to him. If you want to improve, tweak these things. When we got to the self assessment and instructor check in at the end of the unit, we had a great conversation about this issue. It wasn't me against him. It was about how to meet the standard. A strange degree of separation if that makes sense.

My current challenge is the building of learning scales for every topic that I am sharing with them. I wonder if it is overkill. The indicators for level 3 proficiency are embedded and a sequence of how to navigate the work is as well. I am wondering if all proficiencies need to be leveled or not.

Lastly, I am trying to re-think how to use grades as a feedback mechanism. Currently, I have used the Habits rubric I created and placed a percentage in the grade book for that measurement. What is amazing is the relationship between - the amount of understanding and comprehension of the indictors within a level of a proficiency and how students scored on the Habits rubric. There is an alignment. A student got about 80% of the indicators for Habits, and learned just about 80% of the topics in the unit. There is a degree of subjectivity in this comparison but the content list was very specific as was the habits list. I may be making a connection that is not warranted. My thinking is that a student will only progress as far as their ability to manage their learning allows. Sounds like it makes sense. Help improve how they learn, and they will learn more.

This makes me want to use the feedback tool -"Grades," as an indicator of the percentage the student is optimizing their learning potential. I would then write a comment regarding their level of proficiency on the different content standards. I could provide a percentage there as well. I have to keep thinking on this one.

To wrap up, I am feeling like I am making the blended learning classroom much more effective. The specificity that I am providing removes the ambiguity and ensures that I know what is being learned, or not. It is still early in the class, but I have heard some really great music being composed and mixed using the tools we studied.

I just wish I had more time to work on the units. I may have to use part of my old systems until I have the time to completely revisit the site.


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