How I Measure Student Effort: My online entry/exit form for managing a blended learning classroom

This week I was very honoured to be named a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert. I follow quite a few MIEE’s on twitter and I’m always excited to see what they share from within their own classrooms, so I figured I should probably return the favour.

I use OneNote to create a “Blended Mastery Learning Environment” for my students. This is the first in a series of blog posts where I’ll take you on a tour of my Class OneNote. There’s quite a bit that goes into, so I’ll just focus on one thing today.

The Entry Form

I have about 24 students in my class and I play pretty fast and loose with my classroom structure. Every student in my class is at a different stage of the learning, so it can be a little challenging to keep track of it all. What I need to do is try to build in the 21st century skill of “self-regulation” into my students. I do that with the entry form.

I don’t really kick off the lesson with students lining up outside the classroom. I don’t even start most lessons by talking at all. Every lesson, students walk in when they get there, open their computer, they click that Entry/Exit form tab at the top of OneNote and they open the Microsoft Form attached. What’s in the Microsoft form? I’m glad you asked.

It’s actually a “branching” form, which means that the way students answer a question makes different questions appear. Below, you can see that if a student answers “start of the lesson” in Question 2, they’ll be asked certain questions. If they answer “End of the lesson, they’ll be asked other questions. Take a look.

So there’s only 5 questions here? What gives? Let me talk through them.

Question 1. What Grade are you in?
This is just a boring, housekeeping question. I use this same microsoft form for all my classes, so when all the answers get collated in a spreadsheet, this question lets me filter by the subjects I teach.

Moving on.

Question 2. Is it the end or the start of the lesson?
This is the “branching” question. I ask them different, but related, questions at the start and the end of every lesson.

So let’s look at the start of the lesson questions first.

Question 3. Rate your effort on last night’s homework.
The first “real” question students answer in class every lesson is about their effort on last night’s homework. If they did ZERO homework, they get zero stars. They’re asked to give themselves a rating out of 6 stars. Why 6 stars and not the more traditional 5? I used to have 5, but I found students just loved to put 3 stars. Now I have an even number of stars to avoid fence sitting.

Question 4. Do you need to ask Mr Speranza some questions today?
Here I’m really asking students to reflect on their level of understanding. If they’re doing this blended learning thing correctly, they probably watched a video for homework last night and took some notes, maybe did a few questions as well. Did the video make sense? Do they have anything the video didn’t answer for them? If they did try some questions, were they getting it right?

This question also acts as a kind of primer. The reason I do this blended learning thing is so that students can ask me more questions. If I put the idea in their mind first up, hopefully they’ll decide to do it at some point!

Question 5. How hard do you plan to work in class today.
This is really like a goal setting question. Most students in this moment decide that they would like to make a 5 or 6 star effort. Asking them this question at the start of a lesson is a good way to “prime” them for getting stuck into it.

The Exit Form.

If you scroll back up and take a look at the exit form, you can see it’s really a “mirror image” of the entry form.

Question 3. How you would you rate your work in class today?
The last question on the entry form was a goal setting question. This question is a reflection on how well you achieved that goal. Maybe you set a goal of working at 6 stars at the start of the lesson. But now we’re at the end of the lesson and you look at your book and see 3 lines of writing. Now you’re confronted by having to rate yourself two stars. Oops.

Question 4. Did you ask Mr Speranza some questions today?
The answer to this is immaterial. Once again, the goal in this question is getting students to reflect on whether they are taking charge of their own learning. If they answer this question with, “No, but I should have”, I am hopeful that eventually they will start to see the value in asking those questions. I can also pick this up when I look at the results later.

Question 5. How hard do you plan to work for homework tonight?
Another goal setting question. Hopefully it’s becoming clear that what we have here is a cycle.

How do I use this data?

So now I have a spreadsheet with thousands of entries from students setting goals and reflecting on those goals. How do I use this data? In a few different ways.

In conference with students.
Students are unfailingly honest when they fill out this little survey. When they receive their results from the latest exam and receive a B-, we can sit down together and look at the data.

“Alice, I know you’re disappointed with a B-, but this term you have reported an average of 3.7 stars for your work in class and 4.2 stars for your work at home. Maybe we should set a goal of getting closer to 5 stars.”

In conference with parents.
“Hi Bob’s parents, let’s take a look at how much effort Bob would like to be putting into his homework vs what he’s actually putting in. This term he had a goal effort of 4.9 stars for homework, but an actual effort of 3.2 stars. What barriers do we believe there are to him achieving his homework goal?”

Final thought

With every class I’ve used this with, after 3 weeks or so I dive into the numbers with them and show them the distance between the classes goal effort rating vs the classes actual effort rating (It’s usually about 1.5 stars to begin with).

As the year moves on, the distance between goal rating and actual rating starts to decrease (it usually settles at a 0.7 star differential).

As a great mathematician once said.

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