Notes and Commentary Together
Writing in Journals: It takes Renner six pages to convey about a half-page worth of information. He suggests providing some class time for writing and sharing, providing some guiding questions, and periodically reading the journals as a teacher. He provided case studies to give examples of how journals can be used. A list would have sufficed. Six pages.
Assessing the Course: These six pages were more justifiable, as the examples of different types of evaluation (i.e. first-day, mid-course, self-evaluation, daily, post-activity) actually deepened his initial explanation. All examples were noticeably qualitative. Some of the example questions felt obnoxiously leading (i.e. “How did you build group spirit?” and “What could you do to increase productivity?”), but just seeing all the different pieces of a course that can be evaluated was helpful.
Giving and Receiving Feedback: Renner’s most helpful suggested guidelines for giving feedback are to focus on observable behavior, to give feedback as soon as possible after the event, and to not give too much at once. His guidelines for receiving it are to actually listen, to not worry about responding right then and there, to be sure you understand, and to stop the giver of feedback when they’re giving too much of it. Seems pretty clear and reasonable.
Designing Tests and Quizzes: Renner busts out two adult learning principles that I’m not remembering from earlier chapters:
- when learners know what they’re going to learn, they’ll learn better
- immediate and long-term reinforcement also helps
He relates this specifically to tests, but they seem like basic principles that could have been unifying themes in the book.
His test-writing tips can basically be summed up as: “Don’t be an idiot.” I do appreciate his mentioning that true-false questions are set up to penalize students who can come up with exceptions to even seemingly-obvious statements. True-false is pretty much the bane of my test-taking existence. I also appreciate his little margin quotes of bizarre test questions. I guess I’ll close with my favorite:
Write not more than two lines on The Career of Napoleon Buonaparte, or The Acquisition of our Indian Empire, or The Prime Ministers of England.
N.B. Do not on any account attempt to write on both sides of the paper at once.