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How can I assess my own success as a teacher in a constructivist computer lab?

Here are some broad questions you might find helpful, each followed by questions specific to MicroWorlds and/or the MIA site.

  1. To what extent do my students construct their own understandings?
    (How much are the students able to apply what they know of MicroWorlds programming to new situations?)
  2. What proportion of lab time is devoted to experiential learning?
    (How much are they learning by doing instead of learning by being shown or told?)
  3. How much do students experiment with new skills and concepts?
    (For instance, how much do students experiment with different values for variables: different minimums and maximums on sliders, different turtle speeds, different movements, and so on?)
  4. How much problem-solving is integrated into the curriculum?
    (Do students troubleshoot their own error messages? Do they try and succeed with the MIA extension activities? How often do they envision and create their own project from scratch?)
  5. How much of the computer lab experience builds on students' prior knowledge?
    (When students choose and implement a new project idea, does it grow from computer skills they have already acquired? the more it does, the more independently they can work and the more likely they are to integrate new knowledge successfully)
  6. How much do the students reflect on how they learn?
    (Do I, and student mentors, ask not just "What did you do?" and "How did you do it?" but "How did you know or figure out how to do that?")
  7. How often do students ask questions?
    (Do the students ask for help? Do they ask relevant questions when mentoring? Can they find their own answers when possible? can they use MIA's vocabulary table, for instance, and the MW help menu?)
  8. To what extent do students explore the "bigger concepts"?
    (In developing a MicroWorlds project, do they begin with a big-picture idea of how they want their project to turn out, and then figure out how to break this idea into manageable pieces which they can implement and test bit by bit?)
  9. To what extent do students reflect on the activities they have just completed?
    (Do they discuss their completed projects with student mentors and/or teachers? Are there also times when groups of students share their projects with each other and discuss how they did what they did, what they learned, and how they feel about the process?)
  10. How much do I prompt student learning by posing questions?
    (Do I ask questions at the start of a new project, too, such as: What is your idea? What do you already know that can be useful to you in developing this project? What do you need to learn? What project elements might you need? What might the procedures need to accomplish? and so on)
  11. To what extent do I guide and facilitate student learning, rather than directing it?
    (Am I using MIA effectively as a guide, without letting it become overly directive? Do I encourage students to extend the learning experience by trying all of the extension activities, particularly in developing their own new projects in which they apply their newly-learned skills?)
  12. To what extent is constructivist learning integrated into collaborative and cooperative learning activities?
    (Do students sometimes work together as equals to develop team projects? Do student mentors sometimes assist their peers?)
  13. Is the computer lab learning dynamic and ever-changing?
    (Are students trying new MicroWorlds skills with every project?)
  14. What is the extent of the dialogue between myself and my students and student-to-student?
    (What proportion of the students am I touching base with each day? Are all students getting the help they need, from peers or from me? What proportion of the dialogue is spent in coaching and what proportion is spent in reflecting on the learning process itself?)
  15. To what extent is student assessment based on process-driven methods?
    (Do I have a good sense of how independent or dependent a particular student is? The process is different if a project is completely student-driven or if it is an extension of an MIA project. Which type seems to promote the greatest learning? the greatest pride or excitement? Can the student reflect on, "What did I learn from doing this project?")
  16. How much are the students learning how to learn?
    (How did the students learn to do all that was needed for a specific project? How do they best learn new computer skills? by reading, hearing, watching a demonstration, trying it? How well can they reflect on the learning process?)
  17. To what extent do students set their own goals in relation to their learning?
    (Can I encourage them to set process goals as well as product goals? For instance: "On this project, I will try to troubleshoot my own error messages." Can I encourage them to set new goals after an initial success for instance, to refine an animation or add complexity to a game while keeping the focus on helping students to set their own goals?)
  18. To what extent do students try out things that don't work, and to what extent are they able to discuss these experiments?
    (Are students experiencing the joy of discovery, or is it losing out to too much coaching? Am I letting the students figure out reasonable ranges for the values of variables, for instance?)
  19. How much do students give each other feedback?
    (Are students trying out each other's projects and giving informal friendly feedback to each other?)
(The broad questions in this section were derived from ideas in the List of Assessment Criteria, a portion of the "Get Credit" section of Disney Learning Partnership's "Constructivism as a Paradigm for Teaching and Learning," Workshop 2 of Classroom to Concept: A Series of Workshops.)
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