Friday, October 14, 2011

Moving Scavenger-Hunters into the Application Era Using Google Forms

Learning objective(s) using Bloom’s taxonomy:
Application: Students will apply what they've read in their textbook and learned in my lecture to morphology exercises. 
Reflective Description, or How Did it Go?
My ELL 101 class is made up of a number of passive learners who need heavy stimulation to get the synapse paths fired up. The passivity comes, in part, from a genuine dearth of prior knowledge. Not all of them, but enough that I have not been able to rely on scaffolded groups of stronger and weaker students working together. The weaker students get some in-class exercises that forces them to lug out their textbooks and read; the stronger students need exercises to be able to apply what they've read to their problem-solving and, one hopes, model what that's like to the students who just don't seem practiced in this sort of activity.
What's a professor to do? I have to be much more nuanced as I layer in lessons of "how to read strategically."
I created a scavenger hunt in Google Forms, divided the class into groups, made it a game worth extra credit points "to the first group who submitted all of their forms with all the right answers" and set them going. They were "allowed" to collaborate within their groups as much as they wanted, but each student had to submit their own form. Therefore there was the incentive to be sure everyone in your group had the correct answer. The scavenger hunt was entirely based on their textbook and I took the opportunity to layer in lessons in citation and quoting since academic integrity has started to become an issue.
The class settled down and worked hard, mostly together. The "hunt" was almost too easy and yet some really struggled as they went back and forth in their textbook.
For those who finished, there was a morphology problem worksheet with samples from a few languages to work out. These were applications of what they had read. Knowledge-->Application. There were no empty minutes.
The results were striking. A few students had no problems finding and writing in the answers since (a) they had read the text as previously assigned and (b) they were quasi-familiar with answering questions of this sort in academic language. But many, I was surprised to see did not resource each other or negotiate an answer even though I said, "You can write the exact same thing as other members in your group, but you must fill in your own form!" As I went from group to group and student to student, I found that some students were making it way more complicated than it was. Again--a real lack of practice sorting out meaning and knowledge.
As we moved to working on the morphology exercises, I could tell that having done a closer reading and written down explanations of key terms, or even just looking for key terms had been helpful. Others could still not make sense of what a "morpheme" (the smallest meaningful unit that cannot be broken down further). I can only hope that as they watched how others read to gain knowledge and apply that to the morphology problems, that they realized that reading in college can be directed, strategic and active. It doesn't happen without effort, without action.

I would definitely do the Google Forms “scavenger hunt” again, The students were engaged and it was neither to challenging for underprepared students, nor too simple for the stronger ones. I might do it in SurveyMonkey next time since Google Forms does not produce an easy-to-access report. (Unless any of you can show me differently?) Students who struggle told me they had fun--not that I'm there to entertain them, but if learning can be fun, that's half the battle. I am definitely going to use the extraordinary insights to their reading comprehension (or lack thereof) to scaffold more and more opportunities to return to the text and use it to work out problems.


  1. Hey Dr. Jerskey--What do you mean by easy-to-access report?

    Great way to have them apply what they have been reading.

  2. Hey Dr. X--When I open up the Google-Forms report, it is a spreadsheet with a teeny font and I don't know how to manipulate it into a different kind of report--say one that allowed me to see each student's responses separately, etc.

  3. Mmm--depending on what you want, we may be able to figure out how to get it. "Summary of responses" is not it...or is it? What about the function that lets you re-order by category?

    Let me think on this.

  4. I think you can download and reopen in MSExell. Don't know if that helps.