My student’s multi-week projects are wrapping up this week, and like anything my students attempt, there is a mixed level of competency in their completion of the task. The vast majority of student performed at an adequate level of effort, and I’ve given the best scores I’ve ever handed out this session now that I’ve collapsed my scoring rubric to a more specific and specialized. Whenever consistent attendance and struggling students mix, I’ve gotten pretty good at predicting which groups will have people drop out of the class. Only one of all my groups had two people with poor attendance get stuck together. All other groups have a consistent number of people attending.
Students that have been regularly attending the classes and putting forth superior effort are concerned with the final element of this class, which is the interviews based on the materials they learned from other students. The students with bad group members are coming up to me and asking, “The person in my group hasn’t show up for three weeks. Do I really have to present materials from someone that wasn’t here?”
I’ve been telling them for weeks that I make the final selection about what materials they need to present for their presentations. They won’t know which presentation they’ll be doing until they sit down with me in the room for their solo interview. Reasonably, the students want to be prepared for their presentations, and the better the students have been at presenting the materials, the more likely they are taking their class seriously and want to prepare well. I’ve been changing the parameters to simply be “Teach me something interesting from your group member”. It’s not a surprise that these are the students most concerned that the people in their groups haven’t come to class and they might get burned by their classmates poor effort.
One of my students asked me, “What if I haven’t learned anything interesting from them? What do I do now?”
What kind of teacher would recognize that a student hasn’t shown up for class for weeks and then suddenly hold the other students accountable for their poor attendance? The students scores are independent markers of their own effort, and all I ask is for students is to learn from one another, synthesize the materials into their own words, and explain something interesting they learned to me. If they were never given the opportunity to learn something interesting, they can’t be punished for that.
I do expect students to attend every class and present all of their materials. If a student failed to meet that requirement, their grades were already so low that they probably weren’t going pass the class anyway. If they fail to present the materials in the interview, I guarantee that they will fail, as it is a class policy of mine. This task is made doubly difficult, as they need to present materials explicitly learned from their group members, and if they didn’t come to class, they can’t do that. Good luck trying to improvise a seven minute presentation if I have the notes about what the students in class were doing.
Right now I have twenty percent of the students in class failing or in danger of failing. If they fail to show up for their interviews they’ll turn that into an automatic failure, which makes it a lot easier for me. Sitting through boring interviews is the worst. For everyone else, I’m hoping they surprise me and get a score higher than they were expecting.