Changes in Classroom Procedures
Many reforms, whether encouraged or mandated, affect your methods of teaching and grading your students. These changes in classroom procedures are usually an attempt to move away from the traditional idea of education: a teacher lecturing and then testing students on the material. Some schools simply encourage teachers to alter and vary their instruction and assessment tactics. Others schools, however, place a lot of emphasis on completely revamping teaching methods and ideas.
Cooperative learning is an educational method in which students work in small groups to complete assignments and other tasks. Cooperative learning works most effectively under the following conditions:
Students are given assignments that work better when completed as a group.
Groups are small, with three to five members.
Assignments require students to work together.
Each student is graded individually based on the effort made and how much he learned.
Unfortunately, one or more of these important points are often missing from cooperative learning assignments, thereby causing problems for teachers and students.
Cooperative learning skills are very important in the business world today. Once students leave school and begin their careers, many will have to be able to work in teams to complete complicated projects.
Schools that stress the importance of cooperative learning over other methods of teaching may provide teachers with in-service support and hold meetings to discuss methods for implementation. These schools will try to reinforce the cooperative learning philosophy with teachers who depend too heavily on lecturing.
The value of varying your instruction in building interest and reaching students with different learning styles was discussed in Chapter 10. By varying instruction, you wisely choose the best method of instruction for each lesson that you create. Not every assignment or lesson lends itself to cooperative learning. Therefore, try to not only vary your instruction but to have valid reasons supporting your methods of instruction for each lesson.
Alternative assessments require students to create a response, rather than having them choose the correct answer from a list. In the simplest terms, having students complete short-answer questions or write essays (as opposed to answering multiple-choice questions) is a form of alternative assessment. However, when most educators think of alternative assessments, they think of more complicated methods like oral presentations, projects, and portfolios.
Some schools have begun stressing these latter forms of alternative assessments, especially the use of projects and portfolios. For example, some schools have begun requiring seniors to complete a senior project before graduating. Other schools require teachers to collect a portfolio of work from students over time and use this to assign holistic grades based on content and improvement.