Overview of the Escape Room Project:
If you're looking for a fun, challenging, and valid culminating project for virtually any course, then an escape room style experience is a great option to consider.
Such a project would involve designing an escape experience where the various elements within the escape room would require a firm knowledge of the units in a course. For example, in my Grade 12 economics course, I make sure that there is at least five elements made for each escape room: one element for each of our units. I do the exact same thing in Grade 12 Law.
This is a great project for students to either work on by themselves, in partners, or even in small groups. Either way, students are challenged to both design and produce an escape room style experience. Teachers can change the requirements for each student depending on the size of the groups that they'll allow. For example, you could require that each student designs a certain number of elements themselves, and work cooperatively on a another prescribed number of elements. I tend to make my escape room worth 10% of the overall course grade, while also having an exam that is worth 20%. However, teachers could certainly adjust that weighting to suit their course and the size of their escape room project.
Advantages of the Project:
The escape room project has a lot of appealing features, including the fact that:
i) it forces students to dig into material from the course in order to design elements of the escape room. Obviously, this serves as great review.
ii) it requires students to know material from the course in order to design or play the escape room. (It's not one of those culminating projects that anyone could do without actually knowing anything about the course material.)
iii) it activates imagination, creativity, problem-solving, and collaboration. All highly valued goals in education, today.
You should make it clear to your students that you want to make sure that the elements of an escape room project do involve some creativity. In other words, you don't want to see a bunch of multiple choice quizzes where the correct answers produce the correct combination of a lock.
This project fits very nicely into the streamlined Global Studies Achievement Chart that I've made available in a previous post. However, if you would like to download a PDF rubric specifically developed for this project, you can do so from the link at the bottom of this article.
General Tips and Tricks for Making a Fun Escape Experience!
Here are a few general pieces of advice that I tend to give my students as they embark on this project.
A Design Thinking Approach to the Problem of Learning: Using a Learner Profile Study to Gather Data and Revise Instruction
I've blogged before about the importance of gathering student feedback for improving program design and delivery. However, the methods that I discussed in that earlier piece made use of anonymous online class surveys and suggestion boxes to gather student input. These anonymous tools are great for obvious reasons. The security of anonymity allows students to speak frankly and provide input that they might not otherwise be comfortable giving. Having said that, these approaches lack one key feature when observed from within a personalized learning paradigm: namely, the ability to get to know students on an individual basis.
Introducing the Learner Profile
A learner profile is not necessarily a new innovation, but its use is gaining popularity amongst educators, especially in the current pedagogical era that is placing increased emphasis on personalized learning. A learner profile essentially asks students to discuss their interests, their goals, and their learning preferences. However, from the standpoint of getting to know each learner on an individual basis, the learner profile's benefit would be completely negated were it to be anonymous. Thus, getting students to provide genuine input that can truly help educators develop their programs does represent a bit of a challenge, but it is a challenge that can certainly be addressed when approached with sensitivity, tact, and a clear mandate to help each and every student.
Attaining an Understanding of Student Learning Preferences
I think it is both fair and reasonable to suggest that students know best how they prefer to learn. While learning preference may or may not be correlated with learning success, I think it is also fair to say that we could not begin to examine this correlation until we first obtain an understanding of learner preference. I set out to do this at the beginning of the second term of the 2016-2017 academic year. I did it partly out of inspiration from a PD session that I attended during our beginning of term startup, and partly out of inspiration from my students. At that time, my students were somewhat adrift in a veritable sea of learning styles, approaches, and pedagogical ideologies. As someone who not only relies on research to guide my practice, but who also teaches research methods to my students, I naturally set out to apply a field study approach to my analysis of learner preferences. These days, this particular approach might be described as a "design thinking" approach. Call it what you will... I was pretty happy with the results. So happy, in fact, that I repeated my learner profile study this year at the exact same point of the academic year - the first class of our second term. Again, this effort was triggered by an inspiring PD session that kicked off our second term.
Learner Profile Methodology: A Two-Pronged Study
My learner profile study consisted of two diagnostic tools: a survey, followed by an interview. After these two phases were complete, I attempted to code my findings with no particular view to shape or influence the results. I will briefly describe each phase of the study below.
Phase I: The Learner Profile Survey
To implement my learner profile study, I created a short, open-ended Learner Profile in a Google Doc that asked five fairly straight-forward questions. I then shared this document with all of my students over Google Classroom. The Learner Profile asked my students to tell me about themselves, their interests, and their learning preferences. The profile featured the following areas of investigation:
The learner profile was introduced with the following description:
Help me get to know you as a learner: The Learner Profile
Phase II: The Interview
Students were asked to complete the learner profile at home or in class if they failed to complete it at home. I then sat down with each and every student to go over their learner profile with them. I did this primarily to clarify their feedback and to probe deeper into their feedback as well. For example, if a student said that he liked a "hands-on approach" to learning, then I would typically ask that student what he means by a hands-on approach. In that case, I would often ask for examples of what the student has experienced in terms of hands-on learning at any point in his schooling.
I then set about coding and categorizing the feedback that I gathered from my students into the various themes that emerged.
Phase III: Analyzing the Findings
A comprehensive analysis of the data that I collected from this study is definitely deserving of its own blog post, which I will provide in the future after contributing the data gathered from this year's study. However, it is probably safe to divulge the general themes that emerged from last year's study. In no specific order, they are as follows:
A Final Word:
The learner profile is a particularly valuable tool that can be used by teachers to help DIG for student feedback because it can do more for a teacher's professional development and program design than almost anything else a teacher could do. The DIG philosophy highlights the fact that the data gathered from a learner profile can help to i) diagnose problems early on, ii) identify areas of strengths and weakness in students, and iii) generate new approaches for both instruction and assessment. In the final analysis, I feel strongly that the learner profile must serve as the foundation of any genuine attempt to pursue personalized learning in the classroom. Moreover, I believe the profile itself must be followed by a diligent analysis of, and honest reflection upon, the knowledge gained from the effort. The data is right there for the taking - just as long as one is open to gathering it, listening to it, and acting upon it. The learner profile invariably honours the student while informing the teacher, and that, in my view, is a win-win proposition.
If you're a teacher who has an interest in personalized learning, then I would encourage you to explore implementing the learner profile in your program. At the very least, you'll get to know your students better, and, at the very best, you may just reinvent your practice - helping you to become an even more effective teacher. If you would like to give the learner profile a try, you are welcome to use the learner profile document attached below as a starting point. Please feel free to use or revise this document as you wish. If you do give it a try, please do drop me a line to let me know how it goes.
The Early Warning Radar System: Meaningful, targeted, and responsive formative assessment that busy teachers can actually use
By definition, formative assessment is supposed to provide data that teachers use to identify needs, modify instruction, and provide support.
Formative assessment refers to a wide variety of methods that teachers use to conduct in-process evaluations of student comprehension, learning needs, and academic progress during a lesson, unit, or course. Formative assessments help teachers identify concepts that students are struggling to understand, skills they are having difficulty acquiring, or learning standards they have not yet achieved so that adjustments can be made to lessons, instructional techniques, and academic support. (Glossary of Education Reform)
But how many teachers actually do this on a regular basis? How many teachers can? I'm not talking about a token event that occurs just every now and then. I'm talking about consistent formative assessment that is conducted throughout the year and across the entire curriculum of a course. That proposition takes a lot of time, and time isn't something that teachers have in great abundance. Nonetheless, I am here to report that, with the right tools, consistent and comprehensive formative assessment can not only be done, but it can be fun and motivating as well.
The tools I'm going to discuss in this post include: Google Classroom, Kahoot!, and Google Email. Let's get started.
To implement this system, you will need to use Google Classroom to post comprehensive lesson plans, complete with objectives and instructions, as well as links and attachments for any required resources. It is important to understand that the "Assignment" is the best option for a lesson plan, as it can be associated with a Google Calendar date. (Although it will appear as a "due date," which isn't necessarily ideal.) It is also important to note that you can quickly obtain and copy a URL that will send students to a specific Google Assignment post (i.e. lesson plan). More on that later.
Anyone who knows me or who follows my blog knows how much I love Kahoot. I have developed a Kahoot for virtually every concept I teach. (I won't just have a big Kahoot for a unit review. Rather, if a unit has eight concepts, then that unit will have eight Kahoots.)
I therefore use a Kahoot to provide a quick check-in at the end of each topic. I usually run my Kahoots at the end of a class or at the beginning of the next class. They take about 15 to 20 minutes, and they provide both the students and the teacher with excellent and immediate formative feedback. They are also well designed to allow the teacher to provide timely, targeted remediation on any points of confusion revealed by the check-in. After the results for a given question have been revealed, the teacher can even expand an image that may have been used in that question in order to examine the issue before moving onto the next question.
At the end of the Kahoot, the teacher can download a comprehensive spreadsheet of the class results. For this reason, it is imperative that students sign in using their real names. I make a habit of downloading the Kahoot results, and then quickly seeing who might have failed the Kahoot. Anyone who failed a given Kahoot will receive an Early Warning Radar Bulletin from Google Email.
An email can be sent out from within the Google Classroom, or from with Google Mail. I simply copy, paste, and modify a version of the email presented below, and send it out to anyone who failed the Kahoot. If the circumstances warrant it, I might also carbon copy the parents. I've also been known to send out motivational emails to students (and, at times, their parents) who demonstrate exceptional brilliance within a Kahoot. I should point out that the email will contain live links back to the lesson plan that resides within Google Classroom. If you recall, that lesson plan will contain attachments to any resources associated with the lesson.
As I have often pointed out, setting up technical infrastructures such as Google Classroom lessons and Kahoot check-ins do indeed require a lot of time up front. However, the dividends they pay are great, and the teacher will get to draw those dividends for years to come. After that, this outstanding form of formative feedback, timely remediation, and student/parent communication can become a practical, realistic, and regular part of a teacher's program.
Give it a try, and let me know how it goes.
Early Warning Radar Bulletin
If you are receiving this email it is because our recent Kahoot check-in indicates that you could benefit from reviewing the material on consumer and producer surplus, socially optimal outcome, and market intervention (price ceilings and price floors).
I'm going to suggest that you review this material at your earliest convenience, and then try doing the Market Intervention Quiz in the Mastery Learning Lab. [Unit #1: Economic Theory & Consumer Behaviour --> The Mechanics of the Market System --> Market Intervention Quiz].
Formative Assessment Definition - The Glossary of Education Reform." 29 Apr. 2014, http://edglossary.org/formative-assessment/. Accessed 11 Oct. 2017.
The New Learner Lab
Exploring the ever-changing, often challenging, and always controversial world of teaching.