July 7, 2014

To Improve Student Performance, Start Thinking Like a Coach

By: in Educational Assessment

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I have a confession to make. I was wrong. You see, I once thought that teaching was lecturing, and I thought that because that is how my graduate mentors taught me to teach.

But I was wrong. Studies have shown that lecturing has little to do with teaching. A University of Maryland study found that right after a physics lecture, almost none of the students could answer the question: “What was the lecture you just heard about?” Another physics professor simply asked students about the material that he had presented only 15 minutes earlier, and he found that only ten percent showed any sign of remembering it (Freedman, 2012).

So what is teaching? John Hattie compared more than 100 factors related to student achievement from over 180,000 studies and discovered that feedback on student work had the most effect on learning (2009).

OK, I give margin comments like “vague” or “needs synthesis” on student work, so I’ve got that covered, right? Unfortunately, the brief margin comments that most faculty give on student work are almost completely unhelpful to the student. The student who sees “vague” thinks to themselves “What is vague about it? It’s not vague to me. Why is it vague to you?” The student who did not include a synthesis might not know what a synthesis is.

Simply pointing out a student’s errors is not all that useful to the student, but we do it on the mistaken belief that the purpose of feedback is to justify the grade. We subtracted points for 10 things, and so we need to list them in the margins.

But feedback is fundamentally different from grading, and conceptually separating the two is a key to great teaching. Grades are backward facing—they are an evaluation of past performance. Feedback is forward facing—it is information aimed at improving performance in the future.

Step away from the red pen
As Grant Wiggins notes, when it comes to giving effective feedback, the key is to stop thinking like a grader, and start thinking like a coach (2012). Coaches are fundamentally teachers, but they spend little time lecturing or grading. Instead, they teach through feedback. Ninety percentage of their teaching is done by watching a player’s performance and giving feedback on what they did right or wrong, and how to improve.

Importantly, the kind of feedback they give to players is fundamentally different from the feedback most teachers give to their students. A coach doesn’t say “you’re standing wrong” and walk away, similar to a teacher leaving a margin comment that a student’s work is “vague.” That would not be helpful. Coaches instead say precisely what the player is doing wrong, and what they should be doing instead. For instance, a soccer coach might say:

“You are allowing goals because your technique is wrong. You are holding your hands down by your side like this. Because of this, you can’t get your hands up fast enough to block a high kick toward the corners. You need to hold your hands higher like this, and keep your knees bent like this so that you can react quickly to the shot. Now you try it.”

Note how the coach is not just telling the player what she did wrong, but also showing her the proper way to do it. As teachers we spend a lot of time telling students what they did wrong, but very little time showing them what doing it right looks like. Modeling good work is a key component of feedback—and improving student or player performance.

A coach also doesn’t give the player a laundry list of things to work on at once, but rather limits his or her feedback to one or two things for the player to work on at a time. For instance, the HBO series “Hard Knocks” follows an NFL team in the preseason. One episode showed a rookie running back talking to his position coach. The coach said to the rookie “What one thing are we going to work on today?,” to which the rookie replied “Ball control.” “Good,” the coach said. “That’s the one thing we’re going to work on today.”

This is instructive. The rookie does not just have one thing to learn–the rookie probably has 30 things to learn. But when it comes to improving performance, the coach doesn’t expect the player to work on all of those at once. The coach knows that improvement comes sequentially by focusing on a limited number of things at a time.

Similarly, the best way to produce improvement in the student’s performance is to focus your feedback on one or two things at most to work on per assignment. Yes, you provide a grade and a brief account of how it was determined. But feedback is separate from that account. Like the coach, you are essentially saying to the student “I’ve listed the things you will need to work on. Now we will work on the first one.”

In essence, you turn your attention from the past to the future, and pick one or two major themes relating to problems in the student’s performance to provide feedback on. Perhaps you want to focus on how to frame a thesis. You might talk about what a thesis is, why the work lacked one, what thesis for the work would look like, and how to put together a thesis in the future.

Note that you are spending time discussing the process of developing the work. Too often we only discuss the product, not the process that went into developing it. The product is a result of the process, so without discussing process, we are not providing information that the student can use to do better in the future.


Why students are grade-obsessed
Conceptually divorcing feedback from grading will also start to reduce students’ grade-obsession. Faculty often complain that students are grade-obsessed, but how did they become that way? They were not born that way. They did not drop out of the womb grade-obsessed. They were taught that, and to a great extent they were taught that by us when we put all feedback in service to the grade. We do it when we spend our first day of class talking about the grading system. We are telling them that the point of education is the grade.

We also teach students to be grade-obsessed by creating grading systems to preserve their errors. Student’s come into our offices to brow-beat us into raising a poor grade on an exam because they know that the grade will get carried forward to their final grade. They need to do something about that grade itself—not the learning.

By contrast, if a rookie running back starts camp without knowing pass patterns, but gets them down by the end, the coach does not say that “I can’t start him because his understanding is the average between not knowing at the beginning and knowing at the end.” Players are evaluated by the endpoint of their learning curve, not its average.

We all learn by our mistakes, and should encourage our students to make mistakes in order to learn. But instead we have a system that preserves, and hence punishes, students for their mistakes. Then we wonder why they are grade-obsessed.

There are many more rules for providing good feedback, but the first move is to stop thinking like a grader and start thinking like a coach. Only then will you start to see real improvement in your students’ performance.

As always, I welcome your comments, criticisms, and cries of outrage.

References:
Freedman, D. (2011). Impatient futurist: Science finds a better way to teach science, Discover, December 2011. Retrieved from http://discovermagazine.com/2011/dec/16-impatient-futurist-science-finds-better-way-to-teach#.UqHpHvRDvTo

Hattie, J. (2009). Visible learning. New York: Routledge.

Wiggins, G. (2012). Seven keys to effective feedback. Educational Leadership, v. 70, i. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept12/vol70/num01/Seven-Keys-to-Effective-Feedback.aspx

Dr. John Orlando helped develop and lead online learning programs at the University of Vermont and Norwich University, and he has taught faculty how to teach online as well as how to use technology in their face-to-face teaching.

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Rosa | July 7, 2014

While there are some useful analogies here, much of the advice in this article is deeply flawed. Am I the only one who is sick to death of sports sports sports being the model for everything in students' lives? The kids' obsession with sports, the parents obsession with sports, and now we're supposed to take sports as a good model for academic work? Are you kidding me?

Recently I had a student who had suffered 2 concussions. The "trainers" for the team decided he was fit to go back into the game. I watched him over the course of two weeks deteriorating more and more–he told me he couldn't read, couldn't focus his eyes on the page, had short-term memory problems. I watched as his lower eye lid pulled away more and more from his eye. He looked and acted like a zombie. This was good, very (probably too) responsible student. He was pushing himself waaaay too hard, so even when I told him "don't read the novel, don't do any work for this class. Stay home and rest until you see the doctor. I will personally tutor you when you get back. You will pass this course."

The first day he came in like a zombie, barely able to keep himself vertical in his chair, I emailed the dean of students. He forwarded my message to the coach who emailed me back, "it's ok we have it under control." The coach??!?!?! For two weeks that kid did not see a neurologist, and I watched him deteriorate. Kept sending emails. WHY ARE THE COACHES IN CHARGE OF SICK KIDS? ! ? ACADEMIC WORK IS NOT A SPORT.

Tim | July 7, 2014

How is the advice flawed. He is not saying that coaches are in charge. The author is stating that coaches feedback is inherently different than teachers feedback (making generalizations, of course). Having been in education for 20 years, the grading systems have always troubled me for the reasons stated in the article. I personally have tried to mitigate some of the problems, but until the administrations, testing structures, admission policies, and parents are on board, my efforts were mostly futile.

Jennifer | July 7, 2014

Although I understand the point that you are trying to make in the above article, I believe that there has to be a system in place to hold students accountable for their school work. Students enjoy playing sports and the reward for their hard work is more playing time or just the pure enjoyment of the sport itself. But for a lot of students, classroom assignments aren't a joy so they have to be pushed to do the work well. All of the coaching in the world doesn't mean that a student will improve on their assignments just because we provided feedback. In part, the grading system requires them to be accountable. With that being said, I believe there is room for both, a grading system and a coaching position, in the classroom.

M.H. | July 7, 2014

I appreciate the validation of some teaching techniques I've adopted over the past few years. I teach nursing. . at the end point we have to graduate students that are safe, both in psychomotor skills and communication. They need to have stores of knowledge ready to access at a moments' notice. However, they don't come to us knowing or appreciating the learning that will need to occur. to get to that place. Ultimately we rely on testing for validation. . . but how do we get there?

Nursing has simulators. . patient simulators. . .mannequins that have human gurgles, pulses, and indicators of trouble. Unseen faculty provide the patient's voice. These patients provide the students with a 30 minute learning opportunity as they complain, have pain, worsen in their mannequin world. . they are in a simulated patient room with equipment. Other students watch two students care for these patients using real time video. Then they "coach" during a 30 minute session discussing the good and bad of the performance. . .and give feedback on ways to improve. In the end, the students appreciate these opportunities to learn. . .their peers are kind in giving feedback (they will soon be in the hot seat) and faculty facilitate keeping the discussion headed in the correct direction. Another situation. . .

I teach nursing theory. . so needed yet oh so "dry". Lately, I've taken to using Pass/Fail assignments throughout the semester for helping the student to learn the theory. The students must complete all assignments at a minimum level in order to pass the course. I've found this so beneficial because no longer do I focus on justifying a grade, but instead can give pure feedback! Assignments are redone until "passing".

The only issue with all of this is time. . . reading and processing each student's written work takes a lot of it. These days, where we "do more for less", are not geared to the time intensive process of coaching students. Class room work helps, but can so easily miss the student who is shy and has learned how to rely on others in team assignments done in the classroom.

Where are the SBOE leaders who can support education practices that actually help students?

Patrick Case | July 7, 2014

I agree with the philosophy expressed in the article. In my classes, I deliver two or three straight lectures per semester. The rest of the semester consists of small groups of students reading and presenting material for class debate. In class, I'm one of those responding to the presentation but my role is not only to debate it's to point out how the material can be read critically and to put students at ease about contributing to the discussion. I have always felt that if students can express what they think about the philosophy of law and about legal policy, they are part of the way there to writing about it.

I don't mark class participation until the end of the course. Indeed, at the beginning of the course, I tell students that, except for the mark for their draft research papers, they will not be getting marks throughout the term. The draft paper is my opportunity to provide full feedback on thinking processes, writing strength and style and grasp of the law.

Most of my students don't like receiving marks for class participation and presentations at the end of the semester. Indeed, on a number of occasions, students have asked for participation and presentation marks so that they can figure out how much effort to put into the final paper! Mine are fourth year students and by the time that I get them, the grades obsession has been pounded into their heads.

I won't change the way that I do things in order to appeal to obsessions with grades. The fact that at the end of the semester, there are always two or three students who have been able to move significantly, in terms of the way that they study, is proof enough for me that the methodology works.

I want to move to fully implementing enquiry based learning but I must say that it scares me a little. What I do now, with five evaluable parts to each course is a lot of work. Enquiry based learning doubles the work again – it seems to me.

Jon Malesic | July 7, 2014

I'm sorry to hear about your student suffering due to poor oversight by the coaches. The athletic training staff (who are certified professionals bound by a code of professional ethics) should not allow this to happen. I hope the student is recovering.

But because so many students understand what athletic performance means–and the process by which someone can improve that performance–we as their professors may be able to convince them to focus more on performance if we appeal to the sports analogy. And in fact, there are other similar analogies that amount to the same thing: theater, dance, and music all entail similar kinds of coaching. I think John Orlando is trying to convince us to focus on getting students to perform better by training them in one key skill at a time. Over a semester, they will master several of those skills and demonstrate their mastery through effective performance. If the performance at the end is good, then why should the mistakes the student made and overcame harm his or her grade? This is a very good question.

Melody Vaught | July 7, 2014

First of all, I appreciate that you began your article with the affirmation that teachers can be wrong. That implies to me that you, as an instructor, are humble enough to admit that you need and want to continually improve your skills. I am currently drafting a blog with the title, College Students as Consumers of Education, suggesting that students should vet the professors who are teaching classes they are considering and put as much time into selecting instructors as they do purchasing a cell phone. Our students deserve instructors who deliver a good product – students do not realize the power that they have. Every institution has at least a few instructors who are not good at their craft and if students boycotted classes taught by these instructors, I guarantee that administrators, especially in the economic circumstances we have been experiencing in the last few years, would react to low enrollment.

Relative to your article comments, I, personally, read every assignment, every Blackboard post, and provide written feedback because, I remember that as a college student, when I put the effort into submitted work, I wanted more than a check mark, or a percentage, or a grade.

I will be sharing this article with my colleagues. Thank you for your insight.

Paul | July 7, 2014

This is where standards-based grading works. The feedback for improvements are tied to the standard(s) (you can call it a goal too) and their achievement of that skill is graded only at the end of the tasks. You are assessing throughout, giving plenty of feedback en route, but they should know well that if they don't adjust and their end product is lacking, their grade will reflect that. It isn't perfect, but it is a balance and, in my experience, it helps all involved in the process.

dave porter | July 7, 2014

Jennifer, I beg to differ with you. I can't help but wonder if some of the student behaviors you are observing are not a consequence of some of the assumptions you make about students and education. I’ve heard that every system is perfectly designed to yield the results we observe. If students find no joy in your assignments and have no sense of accountability independent of your use grades to punish them for their lack of compliance, isn’t the blame, at least partially, yours?

As an undergraduate at the Air Force Academy I was required to complete nearly 30 hours of engineering courses – a significant challenge for a guy like me. All in all, it was not a very pleasant experience; competition, coercion, and ridicule seemed to be the pedagogies of choice back in the day. After 45 years or so, I don't recall much that I learned, except: you can't push on a rope. Students can be like the rope in a free body diagram. From my own experience in the classroom, I've learned that students respond much more favorably to the pull of coaching than the pushes and shoves of accountability. Identify what is best in your course, and let your own deep love for it attract your students learning. If you don’t love what you are teaching, find something you do love and teach it.

Jim Leach | July 7, 2014

Your article is one of, if not the, best Faculty Focus articles I have read since I started to subscribe a year and a half ago. I am semi retired (not from teaching) and have been teaching BComm students for the last three years. I was also a hockey and soccer coach when my kids were younger; connecting past with present…perfect. I will never stop learning how to teach and your article is a huge help in my learning process.

Thanks,

Jim

Gordon Aubrecht | July 7, 2014

Yes, Prof. Orlando is right on the money. I learned from teachers who lectured, and it was because I was so dedicated–I just had to figure things out. As Prof. Orlando did, I began teaching by lecturing, but soon learned that my students were not me. I took lecture notes in physics & math classes and rewrote them that evening. I thought through confusing statements with the book, and (in extremis) asked the teacher about my confusion, which by then I could describe pretty well. Not so my students, even the engineers-to-be. I have written quite a bit on the same topic as Prof. Orlando, and am working with middle school teachers, where "teaching is telling" is rampant because of a lack of content knowledge. I teach physics. I basically had to go to grad school to learn how to learn from equations. Teachers who know almost no science cling to memorization of equations … when forgetting that many folks contributed to understanding before the equation could be invented to describe it. Equations can describe well things we've found out. Asking good questions to lead students to their own answers is the key for me. Giving answers is satisfying to both teacher and student but condescending–saying the student is too stupid to be able to figure things out for her- or himself. Besides, they are forgotten the next day. (I do admit that occasionally a student will be ready for an answer, in which case I might actually give it.) My "lectures" are perhaps 5 minutes when it is obvious the class (where I teach it's a small enough class for me to tell) needs specific information or help in thinking through something.

Lynn Mack | July 7, 2014

I would also add that coaching could really be replaced with providing ongoing "formative assessment". Formative assessment, as I learned from Angelo and Cross, really helps the student understand what they are doing correctly and how to improve or correct what they are doing incorrectly. Summative assessment is too late to correct, especially when you are not allowing retakes. Yes, my father was a coach and his parenting was from a coaching background, so I do believe "coaching" can work but you often need both coaching and explaining/lecturing. You don't learn something new unless you see it modeled and lecturing or thoroughly explaining how something works is a must in many classes. Thanks for the article, it did make me think.

David Luechauer | July 7, 2014

Good overview if not particularly "recent." in terms of observations and suggestions. Coauthor Gary Shulman and I first started publishing articles about creating empowered learners in 1992 and even wrote a 10 year retrospective published in 2002 entitled "Creating Empowered Learners": A Decade On Trying To Practice What We Preach. The good news about all these post is that the dialogue continues on the topic. The bad news is that the dialogue continues on this topic – seriously, whether it comes to leadership/management in the boardroom/factory floor or in the hallowed halls of the academy, we have known for a long time that more humanistic, more appreciative, more collaborative styles tend to out perform more bureaucratic, control oriented, top down approaches. So, it begs the question – why do we persist in having to tell people that there is a better way to build this mousetrap we call classroom instruction? I believe part of the answer can found in Stephen Kerr's seminal HBR article entitled "On The Folly of Rewarding A While Hoping For B." We talk about good teaching, good learning, student engagement and involvement but face it – what is the reward for engaging in the significant extra work it takes to design, implement and assess non-traditional teaching methods? At most institutions the answer is none or painfully little so unless faculty are internally motivated to break out of the box there is little incentive for them to even try as they each learn "what really counts at xyz university." Moreover, and this was born out in all our research – we need to be careful in the assumption that students want this kind of learning because it places extensive burdens on them to prepare, participate and even assess their own work and the work of others. In any one off situation, students will say they want that type of learning but when asked if they would want every or even most of their professors to use it — the answer is a resounding NO In fact, a medical school with which I am most familiar has totally abandon its Problem Based Learning approach that many felt was one of the most innovative programs in the country and the most preferable method to teach future doctors and surgeons. To be sure, there were other factors in the decision but at the core was that the students just didn't want that type of program and made it perfectly clear that the effort to use that approach was not worth the cost. Again, the rewards do not match the processes involved so people make the rational if not optimal decision to do what they have been doing in the past. On a final note, I would like to stress something that is totally ignored ever since this discussion began back in the 1960's if not before. Namely, stop bashing "lecturing." The simple truth is that faculty standing in front of a room talking for 50, 75 or more minutes is not lecturing — it is dictation. Good lecturing and good lecturers are absolutely priceless and hard to find It is not the lecture method that does not work. To prepare a cogent, compelling, insightful, engaging lecture is an art form and a craft that takes years to learn. A good lecture is worth its weight in gold. Slapping together a few power point slides or God forbid a Prezi and then running into class and reading it to the students is not a lecture…. it is DEATH BY POWER POINT. Moreover, the original lecture method was assisted by break out groups or tutorials which all have been dropped from most curricula. In the original models so well used at Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge – the lecture was delivered one day and small groups of students met on other days to go over the material in a more intimate setting. Sometimes, the student met alone with the professor to discuss that which was presented in the lecture. I could go on and on about this topic but the point is simple. We can't begin to fix the problem until we first correctly label it. Lecturing is not the problem. Lazy faculty who read out of the book, run through slides provided by the author or randomly speak off the top of their heads are not lecturing. They are delivering a monologue. The reasons they may opt for this approach are legion and at the core are simply answered by the question, "what gets rewarded around here?" Look at both what students and faculty get rewarded for doing and either change the reward or change the behavior that gets the reward. Until we come to the point where good teaching is significantly and meaningfully rewarded and to the point where students have some incentive to actually engage the process we likely will see little change.

@ashrrs | July 7, 2014

I immediately sent this to our Athletic Director, but really all instructors should read this article!

The description of poor feedback described in this article directly and completely illustrates the grading at UC Berkeley in the Poli Sci department- and likely most departments. The margins of my essays simply said "Expand." Very similar to the feedback "Vague." It wasn't until I focused on studies in a different, smaller department (Public Policy) that I received Word doc mark-up with true feedback.

As a coach, I absolutely relate to this. As an instructor trainer of online best practices in higher ed, I enjoyed this article because of the inherent, generalized dislike of the athletics instructors (aka Coaches). I love that this is saying maybe the traditional instructors should take a hint from the athletics department. =)

Mikael_H | July 7, 2014

Excellent piece. I found that switching to gamified learning automatically compels the teacher to switch from being a grading judge to becoming a facilitator of learning – looking towards the future. It is much more gratifying, I have to say. See more here:
http://questboise.com/

squirreldancer | July 7, 2014

"Vague" is just as much coaching as "keep your elbow up". If you avoid being vague, your writing will improve. If you avoid dropping your elbow, you will get more hits.
But that isn't the real problem with the analogy. Even the largest sports teams rarely exceed 30-40 players. Coaching those 30-40 players are the head coach, one or two assistant coaches, sometimes an offensive coach and a defensive coach, a trainer or two, maybe a batting coach, a running coach or a pitching coach. There might be a weight trainer, an endurance trainer, a team psychologist and maybe even a chaplain or spiritualist.
And while most of the team is running laps or skipping rope or pumping iron, all these coaches are having one on one sessions with players. And those coaches are expected to do nothing but coach.
In the classroom, on the other hand, there are 500 chemistry students and one prof.
Writing "vague" three times on each 3-page paper for 100, 200, 300 students, two or three times a term takes hours, days.
If you want the coaching analogy to work, get the classroom ratios down to 15 to 1 or so, and bring in the assistant profs, the class psychologists and the class chaplain. Then add in a classroom secretary, and a research team to boost the prof's publications enough to hold his or her job.
Then, maybe we can abandon this primitive "lecturing and grading" and get down to "coaching" instead of "teaching".

bill_goffe | July 8, 2014

For some more scholarly background on this idea, see "The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance," Ericsson, Krampe, Tesch-Römer, Psychological Review, 1993, Vol. 100. No. 3, 363-406. What is being described here is basically "deliberate practice" — students (or athletes) trying something difficult and receiving prompt feedback. This paper is hugely influential — many likely heard of the "10,000 hour rule" — it came from this paper. The 10,000 hours needs to be deliberate practice. Google Scholar reports 4,400 cites to this paper.

For an illustration in the classroom, see "Improved Learning in a Large-Enrollment Physics Class," Deslauriers, Schelew, Wieman, Science, 13 May 2011, Vol. 332 no. 6031, pp. 862-864. See http://www.cwsei.ubc.ca/SEI_research/index.html for a non-gated version. They compare learning from a lecture versus a classroom that uses deliberate practice and they find that the latter leads to more than two standard deviations more learning. It is worth noting that the last author (Wieman) is a Nobel Laureate in physics as well as a recipient of a "U.S. Professor of the Year" contest (4 given annually for teaching). He's currently at Stanford with a joint appointment between physics and the graduate school
of education.

WallyWood | July 8, 2014

I have always preferred the Coach model over "Sage on the Stage" OR "Guide on the Side."

The purpose of Professoring is to develop and certify skills which we expect will provide success.

Skills are learned best with ACTIVE learning with frequent FEEDBACK and multiple iterations.

Dr. James Watkins | July 8, 2014

I think the original comment is pretty much on track. It's fine to be against lecturing and in favor of effective feedback. I have no trouble with that although the 'stop lecturing' idea is at least three decades old. The problem is this notion that we ought to be idealizing the athlete/couch relationship, which, as we have seen in recent years, is hardly an exemplary model. I think when we talk about teachers, we ought to use teachers as our exemplary models. I had more than one teacher– in all three of the degrees I have received– who gave me excellent feedback and never lectured. At the University level, we ought not to be emphasizing sports and couches and all the rest. which has become an exploitative and parasitic industry that distorts our educational mission. In most states the highest paid public professional is the coach; the lowest, the school teacher. Let's models ourselves on good teaching.

Rosa | July 9, 2014

I made the original comment, and I wish I had said what you said. In part the article is insulting because it assumes we college professors aren't teaching like this–encouraging, being specific with feedback, etc. I'm very creative about how I teach, and most of my classroom involves activities that reinforce the skills and concepts students are trying to learn. However, I am not do I aspire to be a coach. Intellectual learning can be play, and it can be fun. But it is very different from sports, and it should be. "Exploitative and parasite industry" is an excellent description of how sports functions on many campuses. I loathe the idea that my teaching should be like that. It's a bad analogy, and we won't improve student performance by continually holding teachers accountable for the failings of students. No matter how creative, how passionate, how caring a teacher is, if the student doesn't want to learn–and many resent the effort it takes to learn–they will not learn.

Leslie | July 10, 2014

Thank you for sharing these techniques. I find that when I'm in a grading rut, staring at a mountain of grading but unsure how to tackle it, a perspective shift can help face that challenge. The idea you mentioned about focusing on themes for improvement rather than responding to every misstep is just what I needed today. Much appreciated.

Bobby Clark | July 12, 2014

Dave I agree with everything you said and being a new teacher it is hard to not follow the standards that others have set. I tell my students that in the beginning everyone has an A and what they do with that A depends on their accountability and how they apply themselves.
For my classes it is essential for me to use coaching because I am also teaching them techiniques to the trade for them to use. Starting with one objective is always important so as not to overwelm them. Grades are primarily important for the instructor verses the student. But from our very first class as a student we are taught that it is the grade that shows us how good or bad we are.
We as far as teachers need to look back at when we were in school and think how we felt and what things can we do differently, even if it is just the wording, to make it easier for them to understand.

Beth | July 14, 2014

I though that the author brought up some good points, but one point that I disagree with is the analogy that a semester is like the pre-season. The author argues that a coach wouldn't hold a player's earlier deficiencies against him or her if the player was able to remedy them by the end of the training camp, "Players are evaluated by the endpoint of their learning curve, not its average." By this train of thought, should instructor's simply have practice tests all semester long and then only evaluate students based on their final exams?

Like it or not, the system is set up to evaluate students. If we evaluate students based off their understanding at the end of the course, then we bias our evaluations toward students who perform well under pressure and we limit our evaluations to one or a few data points taken closely together. I understand that the current system allows earlier failures to dog students throughout the course, but it does provide more data points over a wider span of time to try to create a more comprehensive picture of student learning.

Perhaps, a more statistically acceptable way to evaluate student learning would be to drop the lowest (and possibly even the highest) evaluations from a student's record.


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