Student Feedback

Teacher: Today we are wrapping up our thinking about learning by creating a visual representation of learning. What word or words come to mind when I say “Learning is….?” One thing that comes to my mind is the idea that learning is a permanent change.  Let’s go around the room and hear your ideas.

In the academic class (or advanced level), I heard  ideas like ‘reading’, ‘hard work’, ‘effort’, ‘on going’,  ‘risk-taking’, ‘caring’, ‘overcoming obstacles’ and ‘exercising the brain’.

From the applied class (or general level) what I heard back was ‘nothing’, ‘boring’, and ‘pointless.’

What does this feedback tell me?

For two weeks both classes were taught the same content around growth mindset, learning, and goal setting. We watched videos about The Learning Brain, we read various articles explaining the difference between fixed and growth mindset, we completed a mindset survey, and we wrote short skits and role –played what growth and fixed mindset language might sound like. We discussed our ideas in small groups and as a whole class, we made notes, and we wrote blog posts.

What else do we need to know about these two classes?

The classes are the same size. Attendance in the academic class is 100% many days, while the applied class is never 100%. In fact, half of this class has already missed three to six days of the first 13 days of the semester. Generally, the academic students complete homework while the applied students do not.  More academic students have completed the required blog posts (writing is thinking) in spite of the applied class having more class time to complete the posts. (For the record, there is one student in the applied class who has no technology available to him at home, and generally, the applied class is less interested in using Chromebooks and various web tools and platforms for their learning. But this is a topic for another post.)

These first two weeks have become an unintentional inquiry into the differences between applied and academic students. Some educators believe that the philosophy of ‘all students learning at the highest levels’ means that all students should be working for academic credits and that it is teacher bias and interpretation of the curriculum that closes doors to those students who are not in the academic stream.

Surely other factors also come into play. What about prior knowledge? What about gaps in the learning created by long-standing patterns of missed school (where they exist)? What about factors beyond the reach of the teacher? What about student choice?

This student feedback tells me that the applied students will need ongoing, direct support in learning to be learners; whereas, in the academic class, we can now weave our thinking about learning throughout the semester.

And it tells me that there is a difference between academic and applied students.

What do you think?



Filed under Teaching

7 responses to “Student Feedback

  1. Janet

    Very interesting. I wonder if the questions to the applied class were too abstract? I wonder if they needed another concrete example in order to formulate their own answers? Or a prompt…”Remember when we …..well think about that…” So a more concrete context? I wonder if they needed an extrinsic incentive to answer more thoughtfully? I read this blog before I left for school and thought about it all the way to work… Thanks!


    • Ms. Balen

      Yes Janet, more concrete context did help. The post is only a snapshot of the lesson, and since the response was so different in the two classes, I thought it to be interesting feedback. With more conversation, the applied students were able to generate ideas for a visual representation (aka a bulletin board display).

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and I am glad that the post was thought-provoking!


  2. Verena Roberts

    As a more academic student who often played the game of “learning” – I wonder if you asked the right questions. Does seat time mean you are, or are not learning or considering a topic or idea you “heard” from a class? If you are sitting in a park and the course topics wander into your mind – or you make the connection between what your “heard” in class and the action taking place on front of you…Is that counted?

    Where does learning happen?

    Maybe ask them that? Do you learn by….get them to fill in the blank asking each other? These could be filled in by behaviours and by mediums (by listening or through my iPhone for example)….

    When is learning fun? What makes learning fun?

    Maybe get them to create questions about how to examine learning?

    Verena 🙂


  3. Ms. Balen

    Great response Verena. I am a huge believer in learning everywhere, all the time. Seat-time in school does not guarantee learning. BUT, when students miss a third of the school year, many years in a row, without schooling (say reading and writing of any kind)supported at home, gaps in students’ skills grow.

    Your questions around where and when learning happens and is learning fun, were all part of the growth mindset work we did, and part of the ongoing metacognitive work we do (knowing ourselves as learners). In part that is why I also asked the question about student choice. Student feedback shows that for many applied students, learning is doing a worksheet and writing in a notebook. When presented with lessons using Chromebooks and blogs, students declared that “there shouldn’t be technology in English class”, and “when will we be doing normal work.”

    So we will examine learning in many ways with the goal that students will shift their thinking about what learning could look like here, there, everywhere!


  4. Brendan Murphy

    I wonder what the mindset survey looked like? Did it change or would it have changed if you pretested and posttested with the survey?

    A follow up question might be something like, what excites your passion? What would you do for hours on end that is active and requires you to participate? Why? Are you good at it? Were you good when you started?


    • Ms. Balen

      I am not yet done with the work on growth mindset / metacognition with any of my students, Brendan. The surveys (one on growth mindset and the other on metacognition) will be run again at the end of the semester. I sure hope to see some changes by June, but there is lots of work yet to be done.

      I have asked about what excites them and they didn’t come up with much. This is why I am doing growth mindset work with my students. I want them to know what learning is and that they are all capable of learning. But this is not work that happens quickly, is it?

      Metacognition is also the topic of study in the collaborative inquiry group that I am a part of. We have spent the last month collecting evidence of a specific student learning need. We have discovered that our students do not plan for their learning nor do they evaluate their learning efforts. As we implement new instructional strategies that support students in these areas, we hope to see growth in the students’ abilities to internalize the learning and self-regulate.


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