The topic of this month’s #blogsync is “Progress in my classroom? How is it made and how I know it?” This post doesn’t really tackle the philosophy of progress but I am going to give my best tip for ensuring you and your students know they have learned all the essential facts on a topic.
When I taught A-Levels I devised a one-page photo system. I would list out all the topics students needed to know in a unit. Then I would write out 4 or 5 “key facts” for each of those topics. In Psychology and Sociology if a student knows those facts they at least have the foundational knowledge. (If they can then add studies that support the facts they will do even better, if they can evaluate different study outcomes and methods then even better.)
I would then make a picture sheet representing each of the things they needed to know. Here is an example for the Anomalistic Psychology unit:
Each student got an A3 copy of this page. On the first lesson I would get them to try and guess what the pictures represented and figure out the topic. Usually they were awful at this. As each lesson would go on and we would learn about the information for each topic I would get them to add words, notes, etc, to the pictures based on what we had learned.
By the end of our lessons on the topic the aim was that they could be given a blank sheet with the photos on, point at any picture on it, and tell me (a) what the topic was, (b) the 4/5 key facts about it, (c) 2-3 studies related to it, and (d) ideally some evaluations (on this picture the circled items actually help give ideas about evaluation so you can point to something in the circle and one of the other pictures and get the to evaluate the topic using the evaluation style).
You can be quite statistic-y about it. You can measure how many pictures students can remember each week for example. You can also build these up over time and bring them back out periodically over the year and make sure students are retaining knowledge. But crucially students see what they have learned. They are very aware that the first time they looked at that picture nothing made sense and by the end they have lots of key knowledge.
That’s a type of progress that both I, and they, can be certain about.