Team-Based Learning and the Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique in English Classes

It’s the time of year when discussion about how to effectively teach students to be successful on multiple-choice tests has increased.

Let’s be clear: Like just about every teacher out there, I hate test prep.

I want every day in my classes to be about authentic learning and assessment. There is rarely anything authentic about multiple-choice tests. On the other hand, the reality for my students, whether they are in my AP classes or my regular English 9 classes, is that they will face stressful multiple choice exams in high school. In Michigan, a portion of our state-mandated test is the SAT, so our students take the PSAT as 9th and 10th graders and the SAT as 11th graders. In 11th grade, they also take additional multiple choice tests in science and social studies, and many begin taking AP tests to earn college credit. I want my students to feel prepared for these tests, but I struggled for many years with how to do that in a way that still feels authentic for their learning. Then I discovered Team-Based Learning. I wrote about TBL when I first used it three years ago, but I thought an update was in order.

Writers Write — and So Do Teachers of Writers

My writing/reading spot.

In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working on six different writing projects in my professional life — two blog posts, two chapter proposals with a colleague, and two proposals for presentations for the 2017 NCTE Annual Convention with different collaborators. The process of writing for various audiences, purposes, and situations has reminded me not only that I enjoy writing, but that I am a better teacher of writing when I regularly write — whether for personal or professional circumstances.  I know I am probably preaching to the converts here, but being a reflective writer makes me a better writing teacher in some very concrete ways.

Recognizing the Struggle. Writing is hard. When I am writing myself, I remember what is challenging about the process, and I recognize the places where I want to quit. I am also reminded of the strategies I use to overcome difficult portions or writer’s block. For instance, I remember that I need time for an idea to germinate. Taking breaks, going for walks, and talking with others are essential parts of my process, but often, they get squelched in my classroom. I remember, too, that sometimes I just have to write through the challenges – trying to get what I can down on paper and knowing that I can improve it later. Most importantly, though, I remember that I don’t have to be alone as a writer — that I can reach out to others for collaboration and feedback during the process not just when I complete the first draft. Transferring what I know about my process into my classroom means committing to an environment that values thought, conversation, and collaboration along the way. It also means sharing my strategies more explicitly with students with my own real rough drafts.