21 February 2007

Bob: Tracking students' progress

"Bob" is a computerized system to help you manage your class.

A teacher lamented: "I to try to collect the information on how my students were doing, but I still feel that I need a secretary or a volunteer to gather much of the data or at least put it into the computer as while I am doing those things in the class I losing focus on the other students and thinking about my next move."

A secretary or teacher's assistant is great but I don't have one. The data can be kept on a list like the roster. I like to keep mine on my computer using an Excel spreadsheet. It is part of a bigger system I call "Bob".

My spreadsheet keeps a running average so I can see how this student has been doing over a long period of time. Using Excel I can make the data cell or box change colors according to the data I enter. For example, if you give a student a high score then his box can be a certain color for "good", lets say yellow. If you give him a low score then his box can be another color for "warning", lets say red, to alert you that he is not doing very well. Then when you look at your entire sheet of score data if you see lots of "warning" colors and few "good" colors you can get an idea of how the whole class is doing.

In this way you can develop a sort of "dashboard" system just like when you are driving a car. Just as the indicators on your car (speed, engine temperature, RPM's, brake fluid, gas gauge) can tell you how your car is doing and if there is anything that needs your attention, we can have indicators in our teaching that show us how our class is doing.

It doesn't take hardly any time at all to enter in the data. I look on my list of names, choose one that I haven't checked in awhile and call out her name and ask her the question that she should have been talking about during the pair/group work. If she hems-and-haws then I know she wasn't doing the pair/group work.

For this particular class of students, if she gives me a fairly good but not perfect sentence I'll give her a "9". If she has a lot of trouble making a sentence I'll give her a "6". "7" and "8" fall in between. I only do this with 2-4 students at a time, like after pair/group work, so as not to hold up the whole class or bore everyone.

Alternatively, while they are doing the pair/group work I may walk around (with my notebook computer in hand or with a piece of paper and pen) and interview a student here or there. Even if a student comes to ask a question during a break you can make an evaluation and enter a score. To enter the data takes only a second for each student.

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