Yesterday, I wrapped up my class project in my Instructional Technology class. Regular readers might remember that I started a Flipped Classroom Project with my students as part of a partnership with a local school district. The assignment was a problem-based project where students needed to create instructional videos to teach different language arts concepts to 4th and 6th grade students. I organized the semester following a typical ADDIE instructional design model. We started the semester with my students heading out to the schools, observing students and completing a needs assessment. The students then returned to campus where they worked tirelessly on designing mock-ups of their instructional materials. After getting feedback from students and teachers in the schools, my class went into full development mode where they crafted a full version of their instructional materials that were implemented recently in the partner classrooms.
As we reached the end of the semester, I asked the students to use data to evaluate their creations and to make recommendations for future improvements. Rather than give a formal final exam, I decided to invite our school district partners to campus and have my students give presentations. Some students analyzed the cognitive levels incorporated in the videos and how students were engaged through different manners. Other groups looked at assessment data from the 4th and 6th graders to see how effective the flipped modules were. Across the boards, the students in the schools performed as well or better on the assessments from the “flipped unit” as they had on other units during the year. While this was a pilot study, we’re hoping to expand the project and do more data analysis in the fall.
During the presentations, one of the student groups made a recommendation about the course schedule for the semester. They felt that certain topics needed to be taught at the start of the semester so they were better prepared for designing and developing their instructional materials. During the group’s presentation, another student leaned over to me and joked that the group was “throwing me under the bus” in front of our school partners. I explained that evaluation meant that everyone and everything about the project needed to be evaluated, including my teaching and even the structure of the class. I explained while it was their “final exam” in the course the evaluation phase of this project is not an ending but the beginning of the cyclical process of refinement and improvement. While it may be uncomfortable, the groups that evaluated me and my teaching was a critical part of the process.
When I returned to my office later in the evening, I checked my email and found that one of the students from my class had emailed me.
“The final presentations today along with getting feedback from the teachers was really exciting! Today has really made everything feel worthwhile! I knew when we went to the schools to present our mock-ups that this project would be rewarding. This class is prime example of successfully implementing technology to reach higher levels of learning. Thanks for the opportunity! Rachel”
Although her email was a much different type of evaluation from the ones shared during the final exam, it is the one I’ll remember the most.