Feedback and Radical Transparency

pvi20logoThis March I had the opportunity to present a pair of sessions on game-inspired course design at the Arlington Diocese Professional Development Day at Paul VI High School. This week I finally received the survey results from session attendees. I’m a big believer in radical transparency, and I like to think that I thrive off of feedback.

So here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly from my day at Paul VI. All of it!

THE GOOD | This amazing follow-up email from a biology teacher at a neighboring high school, who couldn’t wait to design her own class escape room:

Thank you for the great idea.  Total win with my classes today.  70-minute classes and bell to bell engagement.  And yes, students asked if they could keep working after I called time.
I will certainly pass this around my department and will plan to use it again in the future.  Overall, it took about an hour of work to create…not bad!
Thank you for spreading your joy and your teaching strategies.  Second year in a row that I can implement something right away.  I call that legitimate PD.

Me: So glad to hear that the pedagogy resonated outside of the traditional humanities courses! Bio classes are a natural fit for escape room scenarios, and I think it’s so powerful to help enrich the world of your course with a broader narrative (top secret researchers working for a government lab, award-winning scientists on the verge of a major breakthrough, wide-eyed lab technicians trapped inside a hospital with a deadly zombie virus!). So many possibilities.

THE BAD | This bit of feedback from a teacher who’s not quite sold on using hands-on escape rooms to teach calculus:

Teacher: Very entertaining, but something I cannot really use to teach Calculus.
Oh man. But you totally can! Math classes are the original “word problems” of the narrative building world of authentic questions with implications outside of the academic sphere. If I’m remembering my own high school experience correctly, then calculus is the branch of mathematics that helps learners make sense of equations where variables are changing all the time. Rocket propulsion needed when entering planets with different gravity. Amount of fuel needed to launch a return voyage back safely to earth from a lunar atmosphere. There is SO. MUCH. potential here! If our courses do not have application outside of the traditional classroom, then why are we teaching them?
THE UGLY: This friendly reminder to stay humble…
Teacher: speaker talked too fast I could hardly understand him
Guilty as charged. Always more work left to do.

Author: John

John Meehan (@MeehanEDU) is an English teacher and school instructional coach at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Virginia. He began his teaching career in 2010 as a career switcher through The New Teacher Project, after spending five years working in social media and event marketing. He is a 2017 ASCD Emerging Leader, and an alumnus of the 2016-2018 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council. In 2016, he was named one of Arlington, Virginia’s “40 Under 40” by the Leadership Center for Excellence. He is a past presenter and regular attendee at educational conferences throughout the United States, including the annual conference for National Catholic Education Association, ASCD Empower19, and the Play Like a Champion Today: Character Education Through Sports summer conference at the University of Notre Dame. He’s an avid runner who’s completed more than three dozen marathons, half marathons, long-distance road relays, mud runs, and obstacle course races. John lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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