Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Teaching Better: Student Study Review

Yesterday I was carrying a heavy load since I knew I needed about four good hours of concentrated, energized, quiet time to review students' recent tests. I know that a good, deep review of student work helps me to right the teaching program for each student in a positive direction. I also know that to review the work well, I have to be able to think deeply about each and every child's performance. As I review the work, I do the following:
  • determine if an answer is right or wrong
  • look carefully at the child's work to determine why an answer might be wrong
  • consider the depth of a child's explanation and how I might teach that child better to reach a more detailed, specific, and accurate explanation
  • look at the quality of work and think about how I might teach to help children complete their work with greater care and accuracy
  • think about the class as a whole, what did they learn well and what needs continued attention and more/better teaching
  • think about individual students who may fall far from the mean in either the remedial or enrichment levels and determine how I'll offer that support
  • Make specific plans and exercises for follow-up teaching
  • Communicate the results to children on their papers with comments and scores and to family members and colleagues via a summary email
This kind of work is both laborious and valuable, yet many teachers simply cannot complete this work because there is no real time to do this work during the work day. Typically for me to do this kind of work, I have to give up a weekend day or get up in the wee hours of the morning. This morning I got up at 2:54 a.m. to complete the work before the school day starts. This is not a healthy approach, but it seems to be the only way I can get the work done.

Now there's a part of me that resents this extraordinary effort that teachers of large classes are responsible for. There's also a part of me that thinks we can structure schedules and roles better so that there's not such a great divide between educators who have extensive after-hours work and those that may not have this kind of at-home work. In many countries where education is successful, educators have significantly more time to review and respond to student efforts than teachers in America. If teachers had more time to deeply look at student work, I do think students would learn more and better. In many private schools, class numbers are very low which enables educators to review and respond to student learning more and it's probable that the response is done with the students more given the low teacher-student ratios. 

Family members can help out too by carefully looking over student work and helping children to make corrections and study areas that they struggle with. I know however that this is not possible in every home given the extensive work schedules that many parents have and the fact that some families are not able to support their child's learning in math due to their own math experiences and background. For me, it was difficult to help my own children due to extensive work responsibilities so I am sensitive to this.

Overall I believe that schools have to be sensitive to the value of responding to students' work and the time that takes. Too often this important aspect of teaching and learning is overlooked and students' educations and success suffer from this neglect.