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What are Your Students' Rosebuds?

Citizen Kane is artistically the most influential film of all time. 

If you have never seen it, you should stop reading this blog and go watch it. I don't ever care if you don't come back and read the rest of this post. It is more important to the world at large that you experience the wonder that is this film. Sit yourself down and watch it on a screen bigger than a mobile device. In fact, make sure you put your mobile device away, there is to be no second screen experience with this one. Make sure you turn of the lights or close the curtains for the optimal viewing experience. If you haven't seen it in a while, you owe it to yourself to see the beautiful 70th anniversary restoration.

So to give a little context to you who have forgotten the story, rich recluse Charles Foster Kane utters the word "rosebud" with his dying breath.  The movie follows a reporter as he attempts to uncover the mystery of what rosebud is.  The film closes with the following clip.

For the past 5 years, I have been giving students exit surveys to get their feedback on my course.  Recently, I started to realize how useless these were.  I will probably never teach these students again. And if I do, it won't be in the same class.  So why am I surveying them at all on the last day I will ever be their teacher?  I guess it's just the old way of doing things.

As a part of the continuous classroom process I am implementing this year, I am asking students to help me adapt the learning process at the end of each unit.  So, I have a whiteboard we call the feedback board.  On this board, students give me feedback in three categories regarding their learning.  

The three categories are as follows:

  1. This is helping me learn.
  1. This is not helping me learn.
  1. Could we try this?
At the end of the unit I ask students to complete the board.  If a suggestion is up that someone agrees with, students are to give it a +1. At the beginning of the next unit, I ask for clarification if any is needed as to what was added to the board.  I then promise to keep doing what is helping any one of them to learn.  I try to find alternatives to the "not helping me learn" or at the very least make it optional.  Finally, I implement anything that they suggest in the "can we try this" category.  Sometime I have to debate if it really relates to learning with them.  A recent example was when partner test was added.  I asked for argument of how having a partner on an assessment helps one learn.  We came to the conclusion that we need to keep learning separate from the assessment.  Corrections and the ability to retake can improve learning after an assessment is done.
Here are pictures of the board I took today.  Oh, I should probably mention students write in neon whiteboard markers and we "reveal" the feedback using a black light.

 Also, its always nice when students add a little ego boost in.  I'm not going to spend time going over what each of these different things mean. (What would I blog about then?!)

I could imaging doing this digitally with a Google form, but I think there is a lot of power in having it on the board as a physical reminder to me and my students what is working and what isn't.  Also, it helps remind them of all the voice that they have in how they get to learn in our classroom. We are doing it this way because you asked for it.  If it doesn't work, we can always change it.  The students know if they put in a serious suggestion, it will be heard.

So, no longer do I have students leaving my class and with their final breath uttering the one single thing that would have made their experience in my class better - their Rosebud.  Their one key to classroom success will not sit in the dusty cabinet of so many student surveys ready to be loaded into the paper shredder. My students are able to sound their barbaric yawp on board in our classroom.

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