24 April 2015

Success and Personalized Homework

I've been assigning students to assign themselves their own weekly homework assignments based on ACTFL Can-Do Statments this year. My goal was for students to get some extra practice with the language, maybe find some enjoyable real-world application, and feel better about their skills, all while creating something they could stick in their portfolios.

However, I've been getting mixed responses, so I decided to look at the data.




Data conclusions
Overall, it looks like those who do their self-assigned homework generally do better on IPAs and demonstrate increasing proficiency as the semester progresses. Those who don't do the homework, though tend to be deficient (at least a level behind expected progress) in at least one area.

Did doing homework make them successful?
Or did being successful make them do homework?
image from Glitch on OpenClpart.org
The changes, though, are generally pretty small, and often limited to one or two communication skills. Plus there are some outliers: students who continue to improve without keeping up with weekly homework and others who do the work but are still behind or barely improving. What improvement I'm seeing could just be my phenomenal in-class lessons.

Or it might just be those kids who are successful anyway.

So is it that students who are successful do the homework OR that students who do the homework are successful?

Is it the chicken or the egg?

The thing is, I want ALL of my students to experience growth and to see a REASON to do it. That's kind of what I'm there for: the how and the why of language learning.


Personalization approaches
I've tried personalized homework a few ways since Sra. Cottrell inspired me to get students to use their time:
The teenage beast is a notoriously fickle
one, but something's gotta work, right?
image from Ossidiana on OpenClipart.org
But every approach always seemed to end up just an extra burden to students. They'd occasionally
stumble on something they enjoyed: I got some kick...butt...music videos with the long-term goals from some of my more creative kiddos, and the kids conversing with coworkers always come in bubbling over with enthusiasm about it the next day. More often than not, though, most kids would just look for the thing they could do quickest.

I know, I know, it's the nature of the beast. Teenagers have other priorities. But there's got to be a way to tap into them.

Maybe I didn't explain it right. Maybe I asked too much in too little time. Maybe there wasn't enough intrinsic incentive.

So instead of the weekly goal last Thursday, I assigned a survey to get to the heart of the disconnect.


Survey suggestions
What I found was that most students did not feel that the work really helped them with IPAs (less than half) OR confidence (about half), though a majority (2/3) felt that it did some good for their portfolios.

What I found strange is some students WANT more grammar. Some students feel really confident after they play DuoLingo a few hundred times. Some CRAVE lists and flash cards. And I mean, if my goal is for them to feel confident and enjoy the language, why the heck not? They should be able to get most of what they need from class anyway.

I think WeSpeke may be a big hit this time with all of the kids who want native speakers to talk to. Several want to do more with music, and I'm cool with that (though I still can't justify the "translate an English song to Spanish" in my mind). I also really like that some of them want to extend their Genius Hour projects and do still more with them outside of class.

The most brilliant idea from the surveys, though, has got to be the conference time.


Next steps
And so I've gone about setting up a homework choices page with all of my past and present homework choices divided up into interest categories:




The pages are a work in progress, but I had students look at their results on ForAllRubrics from the last 6 weeks and complete a survey to get a feel for where they should focus. I started calling them up one by one today to discuss that focus and ¿Qué te gusta? while toggling through the pages for them to choose 3 new goals.

They could pick whatever they wanted, as long as it helped them improve their proficiency, confidence, or enjoyment.

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