Sunday, June 28, 2020

Student Feedback on Remote Learning

I gave my students an end of remote learning survey (in general, not just my class)- thanks to lots of help from you all! 
For additional context:
This year, I taught AP Calculus AB, Calculus, and standard level Algebra 2 in a large suburban high school. Only 48% of the students completed the survey, though it was a required assignment. We are not one to one with devices, but some students who did not have a device were given one on the day before we left for remote learning. Teachers also are not given school-issued devices. Final grading decisions were publicized to students in mid to late May, when students were told they would receive a comment of one of the following for their 4th quarter "grade":

  • No evidence of learning
  • Limited evidence of learning
  • Evidence of learning
  • Evidence of learning with distinction

These comments did not impact their average in any uniform way and will not appear on their transcripts. 

I've compiled their feedback below, if it's helpful to anyone! 

Comment on course organization on Canvas. What did teachers do that worked the best for you? What did teachers do that was the worst?
  • Best Practices from Kids:
    • Work organized in weekly modules, with a schedule up at the beginning of the week
    • Have one firm weekly deadline for everything, but flexible/suggested tasks throughout the week
    • Posting newest assignment at the top
    • Uploading attachments instead of embedded word documents
    • Daily announcements/check ins
    • Interactive assignments that provide quick feedback to keep students accountable
    • Timed practice for standardized test (we still had to take the AP exam!)
    • Establishing a routine early and sticking to it
    • Sort assignments by most recent
    • Keeping assignments open, even after they're due. Kids want to make up their late work but some teachers did not give them an opportunity
    • Give consistent amount of work each week
    • Asking kids to send questions to you before office hours so no one feels embarrassed asking in front of others
    • Teachers making your own videos
  • Worst Practices from Kids: 
    • "Surprises" mid week- deviations from the set schedule
    • Positing things the day they are due
    • Daily assignments makes it hard to plan around family/home obligations
    • Not setting a due date
    • Poor Communication
    • Teachers refusing to use the LMS
    • "Having things everywhere"- Canvas has so many tabs it can be overwhelming if kids can't navigate it well
    • Giving too much work, not being realistic that students are doing work for many other classes and handling responsibilities at home
    • Giving more work to "make up" for not being in the classroom
    • Using other people's videos that are not aligned to the curriculum or teaching methods
Comment on how deadlines in remote learning worked for you. Was it better to have long deadlines? Short deadlines? More freedom or more structure?

  • Better
    • Some freedom with flexible deadlines to "work around life." 
    • Consensus in AP level seemed to be one weekly deadline because they were good at structuring their own time. 
    • Consensus in Regents/Standard level seemed to be 2-3 day deadlines. Any longer and it was easy to "forget"
    • Many kids said it depended on the class, they valued some over others
      • **This scares me, because so much of this was based on relationships. If we don't have those in the fall, we lose this leverage. 
    • Posting daily announcements/funny discussion boards kept my kids checking in every day, even if things weren't due. This seemed to be popular. 
  • Worse
    • Posting things the day they were due
    • Deadlines that were too far away...too easy to procrastinate

Comment on types of assignments you received. What types of assignments worked best for you in ANY class? What types worked worst? (Videos, Khans/Castle Learning, Desmos, projects, video-making, etc)
  • Best
    • Khan Academy assignments gave quick feedback and allowed students to reattempt. Kids liked these, but not the videos. 
    • Giving students videos with embedded questions (through Canvas/EdPuzzle/etc) worked well; students liked when they were given guided notes to go with those. 
    • Teacher made videos! Kids wants to see your face
    • Desmos
      • Kids STRUGGLED with being willing to be wrong when we did ABs. I started adding a slide immediately after any questions I asked with the answers and saw that slowly change. Immediate feedback made a huge impact in this. 
    • AP Classroom
    • Quizizz
    • "Things I could do privately on my own schedule, it was hard to depend on anyone else"
  • Worst
    • "Busy Work"
    • Videos that are not teacher made
    • Videos that are too long
    • Textbook Readings with no accountability
    • Essays were "horrific"
    • Virtual labs were difficult 
    • Serious discussion posts were intimidating: "made me feel like the other kids would think i was stupid or something after reading my answers/comments."
    • Having to make videos yourself because uploading was difficult

Did you have a preference for digital vs non-digital activities? Did teachers do too much or too little of either? What type of balance worked for you?
  • Feedback on Digital
    • Difficult to type math
    • "Allows me to have everything on my computer and stay organized"
    • Digital activities made me try to do things in my head, even when I feel like I knew I needed to show work. I just didn't feel like it.
    • Hard when sharing a device with a family member or budgeting data
    • Liked the immediate feedback
    • Too much screen time
    • Easier for a teacher to make a mistake uploading and students got anxious they were falling behind
    • Many students felt more likely to complete a digital activity
  • Feedback on "Non-Digital"
    • Many would choose to handwrite math over type
    • Writing out makes many students feel like they understand better
    • Having a key available for students made it easier for them to cheat
    • Difficult if students didn't have a printer (we don't have math textbooks)
    • More of a "hassle" to upload pictures
    • Students didn't look at feedback because it took teachers a while to read through each students' work and students were not held accountable for looking at the feedback

Did you use a "key" being available for good or for evil?? (Use it to self-reflect and correct or use it to copy/cheat?)

  • Overall, kids mostly used the key for "good" - as a place to turn to when stuck and for feedback on their work
  • Kids started to use for "evil" when they felt overwhelmed to "just get things done" because they procrastinated or their overall workload was very high
  • There's some bias in this sample- the kids who didn't complete the survey may correlate to the kids who may use a key to copy instead of to check their work
  • Some students suggested having the key be made available once the work was submitted, but some said they wouldn't have looked at it then. 
  • A good learning opportunity for many: "I'm going to be honest. Especially in the beginning, I used the key to copy, instead of doing my work. Then, I had the realization that I wasn't really learning anything. I started to do my own work and actually understood what was going on. So i started to use the keys as I should've in the beginning, using it to correct myself."

What were your opinions on live group meetings? How did you feel about cameras on vs off? Mics on vs off? Being able to participate?
  • Love group meetings, but not for learning
  • For live learning, most preferred mics and cameras off for anyone but the teacher and having a chat box open for students to type in with questions
  • Were hard for kids dealing with mental health battles throughout the spring
  • Microsoft Teams will not show more than 9 people in a meeting, so group meetings were strange because there were random voices coming from off screen. Keeping teams meetings under that # of people made them less "awkward" for kids. 
  • Kids took issue with teachers who required live attendance because "life happens"
  • The word "optional" made even the most diligent students often choose to not attend
  • Students believed everyone else was attending office hours,so they often wouldn't attend because they felt intimidated. The weird reality is that most of us teachers were sitting in there alone....constantly. 
  • Students loved when I started allowing them to make individual appointments through a sign up instead of doing only drop in office hours and telling them to "let me know" if they'd like to meet. The sign up made it seem normal and also meant you could just sign up and not have specifically "ask"
Were there any things about group meetings that made you uncomfortable?

  • When one student takes over/talks too much
  • Finding a place in their houses for the background. A lot of fear of judgement there.
  • Having classmates "in my house"
  • Being put on the spot

  • People being able to see them/being forced to have their cameras on
  • Being forced to have microphones on for very shy students
If grades WERE required, what do you view as the most equitable way to handle them?
  • Many felt "there is no equitable way to assign grades right now"
    • Many students felt the intrinsic inequity lie not just in the differences in student circumstances, but the differences in teachers comfort with technology and amount of free time. For instance, I am child-less and extremely comfortable with technology and students see how different distance learning looked for my students than someone in the same course with a teacher who is overwhelmed with child care or uncomfortable with technology. I thought this second one was a really interesting point...we make a lot of arguments about differences in access and opportunity, but this was a new and important angle for me to consider. 
  • Kids felt participation and effort mattered more than ever
  • Allow unlimited retakes
  • Giving either 0%s or 100%s- nothing in between
  • Students were unsure how to quantify this thought, but many echoed it:  "I think it would be equitable to handle them in a way that acknowledges how students are accessing the material and how their home life factors into what they're doing. In addition, I think that equitable grading includes explanations of what is going on-- if there is a reason students were unable to reach out, but they still continued to do work, their grade would be higher than someone who perhaps did more quantity of work, but poorly, while they had every opportunity to seek help."
  • Change to letter grades
  • No penalties for late work

If grades WERE required, how can they be most reflective of what you ACTUALLY learned?
  • Reduce busy work
  • Give fair deadlines
  • Teachers MUST actually check that the students are doing the work! As soon as students saw their work wasn't being actually looked at by the teacher, their effort dropped off 
  • Give every student different questions so they cannot cheat, with some type of automated feedback
  • Teachers must write their own (un-google-able) questions and tasks
  • Loved this idea: "Check ins, check ins, check ins- in the beginning of the year I said that if I had an interview about calculus I would ace it. I think students could have check-ins during which they explain what they learn, to see if it is accurate, and tracks with the amount of work they've been doing!"
  • Allow retakes, BUT make each version different. The initial version can be used to study from. 
  • "Teachers can't stop cheating in this environment"
How should teachers handle offering you additional challenge if you felt the material was too easy? Share any strategies your teachers used well this spring
  • No one talked about getting different work, but students were VERY opposed to getting more work
  • "I think teachers should give extra work on a case by case basis. Some kids might be overwhelmed by the regular amount of homework, while others might use work as an escape from their family."
  • Too many optional assignments gets overwhelming

  • Understanding the "basics" was enough during a pandemic. How do we deal with that if we're out for a whole year?!
How should teachers handle offering you additional support if you felt the material was too challenging? Share any strategies your teachers used well this spring
  • Personal one-on-one office hours (student DO NOT want to ask questions in large groups!!)
  • Small group office hours with a group that trusts each other
  • Using Remind
  • Being flexible with deadlines if a student is struggling
  • Post additional videos on topics you know students typically struggle
  • If enough students ask a question, make an extra help video on it
  • Let kids request person "extra help" videos on questions
  • Time stamp videos so kids can skip to whatever they have questions about

  • Pep talks
How can we best BUILD community if we start in the fall and my classes have never met me in person??
  • This was the most confusing one for me as a teacher. Here's an example of why:
    • First answer:"I have no fricken clue how to do that but I do know that nobody will want to do a "meet and greet" thing online with everybody cause that would just be hella awkward"
    • Second answer: "Have a meet and greet on video chat!"
    • Third answer: "Uhhh bad idea"
  • Some student ideas:
    • Individually chat with students so you can get to know them
    • Make fun daily discussions worth points so kids have to do them
    • Get to know you activities
    • Also let them get to know others in the class but having small group meetings
    • Host trivia night or give other fun optional assignments
    • Do a "virtual open house" before the school year starts
    • Do lots of stuff that has nothing to do with the curriculum

    • Don't ask students to be vulnerable in front of their peers
    • Slowly build up the amount of work you give
    • Send snail mail!
    • Just wait until you get back to school
What did a teacher do that roped you back in if you’d given up during remote learning?
  • Inspirational texts on Remind
  • Check in emails to see if I was doing okay
  • Go to the student to check in before going immediately to the parent
  • Ask how students are personally
  • Extend deadlines
  • Send a daily happy text
  • Do not become passive aggressive or come from a place of anger
  • Be flexible with deadlines
  • Build genuine connections- most students kept working to try to not let their favorite teachers down
  • Teacher made videos made students feel connected to their teacher, feel cared about, and feel like they were still getting silly laughs like in class
  • "Didn't let me slip through the cracks"
What impediments did you have to learning that your teachers wouldn't think to ask about?
  • Chores at home
  • Lack of set schedule
  • Motivation
  • Too hard/shy to ask questions
  • Finding a quiet place to work
  • Sleep schedules
  • Injury and illness
  • Couldn't focus through a 30 minute video! Teachers need to shorten them
  • It's easier to get distracted at home
  • Anxiety
  • Servers crashing because everyone around the country was trying to use them at the same time
  • Family stress/fighting
  • Sharing devices
  • Unable to open file types
  • People on school devices being unable to access things since teachers do not have school devices and do not know what may be blocked
Did a teacher do anything that rubbed you the wrong way during remote learning?
  • Busy work
  • Giving too much work
  • Lack of communication
  • Not being transparent with deadlines
  • Moving too fast, not adjusting schedule for student understanding
  • Refuse to use the school's approved LMS
  • Lack of clarity in general (from the school) on how grading would work
  • Not giving enough instruction
  • Try to "make up for lost class time"
  • Not grading in a timely manner
  • Not giving feedback
  • Giving timed assignments on new material


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