A week off from the trial this week – we’ve left the Year 9 groups to it and Nic is just waiting to receive from them any billboards etc they want him to upload (easily done – the billboards are essentially mounted ppt slides).

This leaves us to consider the ways in which we might evaluate the trial next week. Neither us being trained in evaluation techniques, this is the thing we always struggle with. Up till now we have relied mostly on voting technology in the belief that this will allow us to deliver hard quantitive data. Problem is we never quite pitch it right and don’t get data we can do much with. The questions we ask and choice of responses we offer, we tend to realise in retrospect are too leading and we often make the mistake of allowing each student to select too many options.

My own tendency, mostly based on my own ignorance of formal evaluation techniques and leading from my own (as of most academics of, ahem, a certain age, completely untutored) teaching style is to go for open discussion – to see what the students come up with and run with that. The problem from Nic’s point of view, quite rightly, is that we end up with hours of audio recordings which we have to trawl through to pick out key responses and then it’s very hard to judge how widely held by the rest of the class any one proffered point of view was. Because we feel under pressure to offer numerical data, we often feel our reports on the basis of these discussions are a bit half-baked, even if the discussions themselves were rich and varied.

After much discussion (ok, dithering), Nic came up with a great compromise. We lead with the open discussion so that we’re not shaping responses (beyond, of course, the way we choose to open the discussion) – then when we get a remark that seems to hit a particularly key point, we’ll quickly compose a voting question on the fly asking the other students to vote on how much they agree with that particular point. A great idea, which we’ll definitely use in the future – though one rather scuppered in the immediate term by realising that we can’t get our hands on the voting kit in time for the final session of this trial…


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