Thursday, January 6, 2011

Helping Teachers Helps Students

Apparently I'm doing a short (if somewhat spread out) series on education (previously here, here, and here). In this installment I'll discuss what I see as a replacement axiom to the teacher myth: teachers are the solution or helping teachers helps students.

First, a disclaimer: No one single group of people, no one single act can "fix" education. Students, teachers, administrators, parents, policy makers, and the general public are all responsible for the current state of education. (And the current state of education isn't all that bad, let's remember.) But certainly, if not agreeing that teachers are the most important, we can agree that they're important.

Many of the current educational efforts revolve around the idea of "holding teachers accountable." This often leads to efforts involving test scores and record keeping, only serving to increase the administrative burden on teachers. Teachers have a lot to do. Help them do it faster and they'll be able to spend more time actually teaching. They certainly can't become better teachers without that extra time for training, lesson plans, etc. Give teachers additional training, mentorship, etc. and they'll become better teachers. And that, in turn, will help students.

So, from a computer science point of view, what can we do to help teachers (and thus help students)? What can we automate? What tasks drain teachers' time while not giving them much in return? If you're a teacher, what tedious things do you spend your time doing? Some of these problems will likely be easy to solve, while some will require more creativity. We should tackle both.

4 comments:

Sharon said...

I automate various things:

I automate setting individualised work and assessment questions for students.

I automate certain sanity checks on the raw materials that I use to create student assessments.

I automate the delivering of individually-personalised work to students.

I automate the submission of students' code (and other work), for assessment.

I automate sending students reminders of what work they still haven't submitted yet.

I automate the marking of work, where possible.

For marking that can't be computer-automated, I automate printing out code in a neatly-labelled standard format for the markers to write their comments on.

I automate the production and delivery of feedback for students, both their overall grades and more detailed feedback.

I automate collation of data concerning the marked work from students.


Gee I automate a lot.

Sharon said...

I automate various things:

I automate setting individualised work and assessment questions for students.

I automate certain sanity checks on the raw materials that I use to
create student assessments.

I automate the delivering of individually-personalised work to students.

I automate the submission of students' code (and other work), for assessment.

I automate sending students reminders of what work they still haven't
submitted yet.

I automate the marking of work, where possible.

For marking that can't be computer-automated, I automate printing out
code in a neatly-labelled standard format for the markers to write
their comments on.

I automate the production and delivery of feedback for students, both
their overall grades and more detailed feedback.

I automate collation of data concerning the marked work from students.


Gee I automate a lot.

sorelle said...

Wow. How do you automate all these things? Are these each separate systems that you have to manually update, or do you have some exciting system that does all of this for you?

Sharon said...

There's a bunch of programs; almost all of the program code I've written myself. I wrote the code for various reasons, including attempts to be efficient.

One is something I call a "feedback system" which can send out individualised emails to students, and when students submit their work via a web page, it can read it their work and produce individual feedback sheets for them. It can also collate data on how students did on a particular worksheet, record when students submitted the work, and it can send reminders of how many worksheets students have yet to do.

Another system validates a question bank, and then generates test papers with randomized questions, and marks the submitted answers and produces statistics and feedback.

Those are the main systems I use, but I also have a ragbag of other smaller programs. For example, I have a program to collate student submissions of code, and then print them all out neatly labelled, ready for the individual tutors to mark.