I mentioned a few months ago that I was struggling with how to help the kids study/review for the tests. While I have not come up with the ultimate answer and solution, I've been trying something in the class this trimester I think is a bit more in line with the overall Harkness philosophy.
Each unit in this part of the course has 48 exercises, and we have planned on each of the five units taking 10 days total. That gives us eight exercises per day for six days, three days for review, and one day for the test. The three days of review may seem to be a bit much, but the plan gives us the necessary flexibility in case the discussion of a few of the exercises gets more in-depth and therefore takes longer than average to complete. For the review, the plan going into the unit is:
- day 1: tie up loose ends form the exercises on the worksheets, revisiting the exercises on the worksheets that summarize or apply the skills and material on which we are currently working
- day 2: the students look through the textbook and bring in exercises from the sections that relate to the material on which we are currently working (I tell them which sections, they bring in the exercises)
- day 3: the students work through a set of exercises that contain applications of the current material, but that do not contain any new material; they receive and work through these exercises in class, so these exercises are not prepared and discussed as happens with the regular exercises
So far, the review itself has been much better, but the results on the tests (two so far) have been about the same, with no significant increase or decrease in the scores. On the positive side, this is giving the students responsibility for the review, and keeps the focus on them working through the material with me doing the constant analysis and assessment of their work to make sure they are gaining a real, deep understanding the material. And this method of review is certainly more in keeping with the Harkness philosophy. On the negative side, I had hoped that the scores would increase, showing the review to be more effective. But at least it is not having any detrimental effects. As such, I take more student-centered and student-driven with the same test scores to be a win. Not a win-win, but a win. Hopefully by the end of the trimester, the second win will arrive.