Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Story Telling Feedback: Student Voices

I've just finished listening to students' final oral presentations that I wrote about here and here. I promised in my review of this monologue project to get students' feedback about the process. As this was the first time experimenting with this monologue format, I wanted to to collect students' subjective experience of the process. 

Some of that was in a more formal self-evaluation, more cognitive, more about their writing process. I also wanted to know how writers felt about the process, what emotions attended their cognitive processes. I suspect writers would have been a bit apprehensive initially and they would experience a sense of accomplishment upon completing this whole-process project. For many, this was their first sustained whole-process composition. And for many others, it was among the first time they ever shared about themselves in public. 

But my assumptions are just that - tentative, educated guesses. So even with my limited statistical analysis skills, I figured something would be better than nothing. I picked Wordle, a free web-based word-cloud generator that tallies the number of times a word is repeated in a text. The more times a word is represented in a text, the larger it's font. 

To gauge reactions, I asked students to recall and list the first three words that came to mind when they first got assigned the VAMP/monologue project: What thoughts and feelings did you experience when you first read the prompt (see above word cloud)? I also asked what three words best capture their thoughts and feelings about completing the projects. In other words, what did you think and feel about sharing your story and listening to your colleagues stories (see below)? 

No big surprises here. Makes sense that being assigned a monologue would make someone nervous and that completing a project evoked feelings of satisfaction. The four most-repeated terms in the before word cloud fall into the "fear/anxiety" family. Words like "relieved" and "accomplished" were the top scoring reaction words for the outcome word cloud. 

One word appeared on both "before" and "after" lists: "wow."  I suspect that the exclamatory "wow" means something different before and after the project. 

One students who also submitted  three word phrases (which I didn't include in the word cloud) summed it up nicely. The phrase that best describes his initial reaction to the project was, "Drop the class?"  After the project, the same student exclaimed, "Just did it!" I think that's a good arc: from confusion to accomplishment, from doubt to efficacy. 

The choice of three words was arbitrary. I'll need to think a bit more about the number of words they can submit. Stats people, what do you suggest? 

I should have asked the first impression question earlier in the process to truly capture their immediate feelings. Once tabulated, I could ask students to have a look at the word clouds and discuss their thoughts and feelings. This might alleviate stress and allow me to provide "just in time" guidance as writer started their projects. Students could turn these oral discussions into reflective journals to record events along the way. This way, they've taken the responsibility of building a textual foundation for final written meta-commentary. 

If I did a similar process midway through the projects (a word cloud or some other "numbers" type assessment)  that captures their reactions to their progress), I could trouble-shoot. And allowing for a midpoint reflective assignment (or even two of varying lengths?) will help them track their progress for subsequent discussion in the final meta-commentary. 

Indeed, if I want writers' reflections to be deep, broad, and significant, I need to include intentional moments of written meditations so students can track their cognitive journey. Pointed questions can lead students to discover something meaningful about their writing process and the uses of story telling.

Anyone else have creative ideas how to use word clouds in the class? Any ideas about how many words approaches the outskirts of statistical relevance? As I experiment with different kinds of prompts, I could do with some ideas!