In my previous post I talked about some of the changes to vocab teaching, learning and assessment I’d tracked during remote teaching. In this post I want to think confidence and work patterns.
At seven points during their first term, I asked students to rate their confidence in Greek out of 10. There is a class test in week five, which is also the point in term where students are at their most disillusioned and overwhelmed, the notorious ‘fifth week blues’. It is therefore normal and expected to see a dip in confidence at this point. An important teaching aim is to ensure that it improves again towards the end of term, despite increasing tiredness and academic pressures. The data from the two groups suggest that a similar pattern occurred in both terms. Confidence dipped in the middle, but improved. The 2020 cohort, however, reported higher average confidence levels in 6/7 questionnaires.
Students may have been very worried about coming to university under Covid restrictions, but they displayed comparable levels of optimism and confidence on arrival, and once they were there, it was possible to keep morale high.
Why this might have been so deserves close attention. Expectations may have been low, and therefore more easily met. Greater awareness of the need for student support may have in fact led to a better overall support network. The spirit of experiment and collaboration engendered by the crisis situation may, if carefully managed, have been a positive thing.
In terms of academic progress results were also interesting. I measured progress in four categories: a mid-term formative test, a collection (exam at the start of the next term) formative homeworks, and vocab tests (which I talked about previously).
In the mid-term test, average results were identical.
In the collection following the Phase One term, marks were comparable, if not slightly better for the remote group.
The only potential problem was a slightly lower homework quality. These homeworks have a purely formative function. It therefore doesn’t matter what students get, so long as they learn from their mistakes. As part of my remote teaching portfolio, I made feedback videos to accompany homework returns. These lasted around 15 minutes, and discussed general or common feedback points. I released videos at the same time as scripts, ahead of class. Class was then a time to ask specific questions and develop point further.
Overall, the journey has looked different, but the overall results have remained stable. Students are learning Greek at least as well in 2020 as in 2019. I say at least as well, because in qualitative terms, my sense is that they are, in fact, doing better.
This is evident even in just the time recorded on task. It went up from an average of 4 hours per week to an average of 6 ¼.
Part of this may be accounted for by the shorter class times, as students were given roughly an hour per week of extra independent study in lieu of class time. Overall, however, students in 2020 were spending more time studying Greek than in 2019. I recommend spending around 5-7 hours on independent study per week, and tell students that they should not regularly be doing more than 10 and if this happens to come and talk to me.
Despite the pressures of Covid, students are working hard, and productively. The range of tasks cited grew, as students were willing to try different things in order to support their learning. Structuring and directing their learning and supportive and creative ways has led to greater student engagement, which may also account for the high student confidence levels. I’ve read suggestions that this is down to students gaining a more continuous learning habit, improving their efficiency due to Covid confinement. I think this is too simplistic, as confinement was not purely positive, and increased time on task or changed working habits does not necessarily lead to better quality of learning. There are more factors to consider.
In my final post on this topic (for now) I will look at some of these, and at some of the qualitative differences in student work I observed. Covid has certainly changed teaching, and isn’t all bad.