Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Unmet Expectations

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about empowering students, asking students to take more control of their learning (and giving them more responsibility for their learning), asking students to be more active in their learning, etc. We’ve also talked about students rising to meet our expectations – that when they have buy-in and see a reason and purpose for their learning, they will almost always respond well. And I, certainly, have been pushing this a lot.

So my question today is: “What do we do when our students don’t meet our expectations?” What do we do when they just don’t seem interested, despite our best efforts? When they don’t complete worthwhile assignments on time, or choose not to get involved in the discussion. What’s the next step?


  1. Great questions Karl....

    I just recently had students turn in an assignment that I want ALL students to complete. For my juniors this is really the ONLY assignment that I ask them to complete... I had about 15 students not do it and about 20 students do the assingment incorrectly...

    I am faced with a difficult situation, I do not accept late work, however for an assignment that I view of great value, I will expect that all my students re-do this and turn it in.

    I have decided that I will grade this assignment in two categories (one - responsibility and two - their one project/paper assignment). This was a tough decision, but I see that the value of the assignment is more important then the lesson of getting a zero. ( i'm not sure if i ever thought i would say that)

  2. I too have been thinking about this lately. I look at one of the ideas of the PLC. There is one key point that says we look at the students that are not meeting the essential learnings and figure out a way to help them. As I thought about that, I realized that sometimes it is not the essential learnings that the student missed but a basic instruction along the way. Like Alison, I am seeing that the lesson in the lesson is more important than the lesson of the zero. Sometimes this is not the case and the lesson of the zero is the key. The hard part is figuring out when each case is needed.

    On the other hand, I recently found myself complaining that even though I told someone a thousand times how to do something they were still doing it incorrectly. Boy, what an ignorant person I was dealing with. Then it dawned on me. If I could not realize that the instructions I was giving were the issue, who then was the ignorant person?

  3. In the English department, we complain about this exact thing in writing. Why can't they learn thesis statements?? Why do they continually make mistakes with fragments? And the list of frustrations continue. What I started doing with my freshmen, is when I give them an assignment back, they copy my feedback and put it into notes for themselves. When they write another piece, they get out their reminder sheet and already I've had 3 students say, "gosh, I'm making the same mistakes." Yeah!

    The other thing that I'm trying is the grading. Allison, I too have the responsibility category and then a content category. I tell students that if they miss an assignment, if they got a low score, I want them to redo the assignment, still getting full-credit in the content category. I was worried they would abuse this, but haven't. I have had students who are tapped and and had them come to my office showing them the 2 categories. They, in turn have turned in work--really quality work--to gain the content grade. Tony Winger's meeting with us has been so valuable for that.

  4. Again, I'll post as a parent rather than as a teacher in 21C. It seems as if my daughter's experiences in 2nd grade are helping me see some of the errors of my ways. I'm going to move away from the "turned in issue'", but to one that has made me reconsider how I address students when they "challenge" my wording.

    She recently had an assignment returned to her with a - (minus) grade, one she had not received all year. She was devastated an didn't want to work on the next assignment. So when I looked at the work that was "so bad", I wondered how often I (we) use poor instructions or ask poor questions and then punish students for simply doing what we ask. Her instructions were "Use your 8 spelling words in a sentence." She wrote one long, run-on, sentence that incorporated each of the 8 words in one sentence. Honestly, it showed me surprising creativity. Now, I still have the discussions with my students that THEY need to learn how to adjust to each of us as they will see dozens of teachers, each with their own style-methods-language- etc, between now and the end of their educational path. But I am giving more thought and credence to the discussions they do want to have about wording. I need to adjust to them, too.