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Prioritizing the Unit Objectives
The value of formally stating unit teaching and learning objectives is widely understood. Often unit objectives are presented to the students at the beginning of the semester. Some teachers require the students to sign a statement that they have read the objectives and may even read them out in the opening class. Often there is no formal discussion of the objectives and the copious printed copies of the objectives are potentially wasted. If the objectives are important and worth giving to the students then it makes sense for some exercise to be built around them in order to reinforce their significance.
The following example, which has been successfully used, is much better suited to Informal group work. In addition, since this is likely to be carried out in the first class, it has the advantage of breaking up existing friendships and getting students to know each other.
- Prepare the conversation in advance of the class. At the point in the conversation when the objectives are to be discussed, create an informal group page by using
Add Group Page. In the Add Group Page dialog select the number of groups you want, and leave the default of copying from
no starting groups. This will allocate students to the groups using Random-Selection. This can be done in advance, before any students have joined the conversation, as they will be randomly assigned to groups as they join.
- Type a list of the objectives in a text box but, instead of prioritizing them, type the list in a randomized order. Perhaps put an obviously less important objective first in the list as a provocation. The text box will be visible to every group.
- Ask the students to find and sit with the other members of the group and prioritize the objectives. They can simply write a number next to the teacher provided list or type their own list.
A refinement would be to draw up the list of objectives in a table with the first column, including the objectives, and provide columns to the right, one for each group (see below). This can be easily done in Word or other tools. When completed the Snipping Tool (in Windows) can be used to copy the table to the clipboard, then it can be pasted into MeTL. Alternatively: save the table as an image, then it can be Inserted into MeTL. (The Snipping Tool is very useful for quickly capturing part of the screen and pasting it into a conversation page.) The groups are then asked to type or handwrite their priority in their group column.
Objectives Group 1 Group 2 Group 3 The least important objective The most important objective A reasonably important objective
- As they work out their list their group work is not visible to the other groups. The teacher can, by toggling the
Isolatecontrols next to each group, watch the group discussion and either write a comment or question to provoke discussion in low-performing groups or move directly to the group in order to help.
- When the allotted time is over the teacher can click on the
Show Allcontrol to reveal all the groups’ priorities. The Table method holds the Groups responsible for their decisions. If you want the Groups to be anonymous then simply ask the groups to write a number next to each objective to indicate their priority. At this stage the teacher can invite public verbal discussion or move on.
- A variant on this would be to have another class page, after the group page, with a pre-prepared copy of the group table but now with enough columns for each student enrolled and each column assigned to an individual by name. This can be prepared as a template for future use and saved as an image for rapid inclusion in group pages of other conversations. If the teacher wants to identify a column for an individual but not make the identity public then the teacher can type in the names in private mode and place on top of the public image of the table. After the group discussion ask the students to now give their personal opinion by filling out their column in the table. This can be done publicly or privately and then revealed. This variant ensures that every student now has the ability to put their opinion, even if they failed to persuade their group of their view.
- Using this kind of method students are introduced to other students and start to learn to work with them, which is a good icebreaker in the first class; and the students have to think and argue about the priorities of the unit. If the teacher took a snapshot and saved the final work on the pages then the class could revisit the objectives towards the end of the semester to reconsider the priorities and refresh their knowledge of the objectives.
- MeTL will record the students who contributed content to the Group page. It is likely that the natural leader(s) in the group will do this and so MeTL will start to accumulate data on the relative performance of the different members of the group.