When You Fail, I Fail

This year has been a transformative year for me. Maybe it's because it's my 4th year in a lab, maybe it's because of my improved school environment or maybe it's because I've hit that point in my career where I can really begin to hone my craft.

One of my main focuses this year (as many of my readers may have already guessed) has been assessment. I have been discovering ways to know if my students 'get it.' Sometimes, even after what I think is a great lesson, I discover that they don't.

photo courtesy of annais on Flickr
The great thing? I actually know that they don't get it. Through developing methods for quick checks for understanding and by narrowing down my focus and learning goals for each 45 minute period I have been able to ensure that my students have mastered the skill or concept required to move them to the next part of a project or to push them to apply the skill to a new situation.

I walk methodically to each student during the class period checking off whether a student has mastered the skill I want them to have by the end of the period (i.e. "Show me how to use the paintbrush tool." or "What do you click if you want to leave this website and go to a different one?")  In this way, I can quickly pick up who 'gets it' and who doesn't. I have found this vital to ensuring that everyone is ready to move on and that I address any misconceptions before applying these skills to a new situation.

The biggest realization for me has been the acceptance that when my students fail it's usually a direct result of something I have or haven't done.

This fact has been proven to me a few times this year as I changed my approach or my method or allowed my students to revise projects based around feedback.  I have watched my students succeed and produce better and better projects and I smile inwardly as I hear them tell each other how to move files around and teach each other how to find applications with the Spotlight.

It's not all roses. I have stumbled and there have been lessons that failed. When this happens and my students obviously didn't get it or are not ready to move on, I have to take a step back and assess what they need to be prepared for the task or tasks ahead.

Today I told my 4th graders, "If you fail, that means that there's something that I didn't do right. If you fail, that means I failed."

It's a bold statement, but I'm starting to think that it's true.


Save Trees: Don't print me!