Roots “Midterm Formative Assessment” Survey Results

Before spring break I gave my Roots students a Midterm Formative Assessment Survey. Below is a summary of their answers. The results of this survey bring to light many of the issues that arise when learning leaves the classroom and falls into the unstructured category of “homework” and “self-study.” In addition, students have both favorable and not-so-favorable responses to many of the student-centered activities I have tried out this semester which have taken the forms of group-work and “projects.” I conclude this summary with a call for help – how can I better balance my classroom and lessons?

1. Course Objectives – I first asked my students to please rate their confidence in performing the following from 1 (low) to 5 (high).

*Based on their quiz results I would shift their answers up by a point. There might be some under confidence bias reflected here.

Finding the stem of a Latin noun or adjective  Average was between a 3-4. Since this task is the most basic one the students need to master (before they can do anything else really) I am not as happy with these numbers as I would like to be. In my lesson plans I aim to review roots/stems in some form every class but I am now wondering if the correct answers I have been hearing have been simply coming from those few students who circled 5 on their surveys. Also, going by their quizzes, I would actually give this objective a solid 4.5. Very rarely do students make mistakes in this area.

Transliterating a Greek word  The scores were all over the place here (from 1s to 5s) which I can understand. 1) Greek is a new alphabet entirely to master and 2) the transliteration lesson was rushed in my opinion because of scheduling issues at the beginning of the semester. That being said, I knew both of these things before hand and therefore tried to compensate throughout the rest of the semester with frequent transliteration review (mostly warm-up and think-pair-share activities).

Since I only have a limited amount of time to review the Greek alphabet in class much of the responsibility (for better or worse) falls on the students going home and practicing themselves – better solutions are definitely needed here. I showed them a Greek ABC song Youtube video (and posted it to Blackboard) and many students seemed to not only like this video but want more.

Providing Latin or Greek derivatives on quizzes I know from grading said quizzes that the students are strong here and their answers reflected that.

Memorizing the meanings and definitions of Latin and Greek words  I will talk about this more at length below. In short, ‘memorization’ is the students’ number one “fear” in this class. Average was a 3.

*I also recognize that memorization is negatively impacted by test anxiety, which is when all the vocabulary you memorize flies out of your head as soon as you see that blank quiz in front of you. This is why I am much in favor of lessons that emphasize internalizing the material rather than “cramming” it in the night before the quiz.

Navigating a dictionary entry and/or etymology guide  This means can the student find the etymology of a word in a dictionary or online compendium like I was expecting solid 5s but the average was closer to a low 4. This is maybe understandable because it is a task the students must complete when doing their homework but in class I serve as their dictionary – which may not be the best thing. Hm.

Overall, I am most concerned about the scores for their ability to find roots/stems but then again, in the “real world” and along the lines of “applied etymology,” the dictionary task is the one mastery my students will likely use the most after this class and throughout their lives. So I feel I have a responsibility to improve their confidence in both these areas.

2. I then asked:

What is the ONE concept or topic in this course that you are worried about moving forward? Please be as specific as possible to help me address these

Memorization. Memorization. Memorization. They all put it.

Answers ranged from “I know I have to  – it just takes so much time” to “I simply can’t do it.”

I’m paraphrasing but still – sigh.

I’m only sighing because I know the (necessary) struggle all too well and feel helpless. There is SO MUCH memorization in classical language courses – pages and pages of lists of lists of vocabulary words (some written in Greek letters!). Because of how the textbook is organized (thematic vocabulary lists) lots of creativity, innovation, and energy has been needed to overcome this pedagogical inertia and invent new ways to help students with this challenge.

Knowing this at the beginning of the semester, the first thing I did was cut down on the number of words they need to know by being more selective with the the vocabulary the textbook offers. I am also extremely (extremely) explicit about exactly which words to focus on when studying and which may appear on the quizzes. In addition, I regularly “practice” vocabulary through various in-class exercises and discussions about etymology and their homework also lets them review these words too.

More is needed. Online flashcards and “jeopardy” review games have been suggested and I will be trying those out for our final review coming up soon. I also sometimes take a few minutes to ask the class “so how do you study” and then we talk about tips and tricks for memorization (like folding paper so you can “quiz” yourself on vocabulary lists or notecards with pictures for each word).

That being said – the rest of the memorization falls on the students out of class and at home. Which leads me to…

3. On a scale of 1 to 5 how much time out of your schedule do you devote to studying for this class? 1 (not as much as I probably should) through 5 (a decent and appropriate amount)

Their answers were hitting the 2s and 3s. Hm. To me the answers to question 3 are creating tension with the answers to question 2 because memorization/internalization and just studying and absorbing the material all takes time. I can only do so many review exercises in class because of time constraints – I find myself struggling to move forward with the lessons while at the same time constantly swinging back around to review older concepts. I had hoped to help the students master the “tools” to etymology in class so that they could use them on their own at home but I can’t serve as a guide or facilitator when class in over.

For many students, due to various life issues (which we will discuss in the upcoming weeks in the Futures course) the time in class is the only time they can devote fully to the material – which puts the pressure on me to make the most effective use of that time.

Which leaves me conflicted. For question 4 I asked:

4. What would you like to see less of in this class? More of? 

Less homework. Less group work/projects. More in class explanation/examples/etc.

These responses harmonize with what I said about – the time in class is extremely valuable. Homework was taking too long or didn’t seem to really advance what they were learning in class (I disagreed on that point but acknowledged that the exercises were long). They wanted class to have more time dedicated to review and to me explaining what might be on the quiz – group work and projects were taking time away from me lecturing and “giving” examples – in general I saw a preference for vertical, summative assessment oriented learning – a “traditional” classroom.

I had wanted the students to create examples for themselves and teach each other but some of their responses have been largely not in favor of the student-centered activities I’ve enacted this semester (not all of course – many liked the group work but were not as vocal as those who were not fans).

So now I open it up to you, Mapping class – should I try to balance my lessons more – and how? How can I use my time in class more effectively? I want to keep the student-centered activities but they are taking up a lot of class time…


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