Sunday, February 6, 2011

Values, part 2

A perfectly valid reason: being able to put food on the table.

Awhile ago, I commented about wanting to perform this experiment on my Algebra Readiness students.

Well, this past Friday, I did. A mini version, that is. Most of the quizzes we give fro Algebra Readiness are written by one of my co-workers, who is an excellent teacher. She likes to put random "Starter Questions" for students to answer in the space directly under where they are supposed to write their names. Some sample questions from the past quizzes this year were:

What is your favorite color?
Pepsi or Coke?
What is your favorite candy?
Where would you like to travel?

The students like answering these questions - or I assume they do, since nearly everyone always writes something down pertaining to the Starter Question. It's pretty fun to read them.

The quiz this past Friday was an unplanned quiz that I ended up doing because the math instructional consultant for my school district asked to do a demo lesson for me on Thursday, and she mentioned a quiz to the students. I hadn't told her we would be doing a quiz. I think she just assumed because the lesson she demo-ed on was a mid-chapter review. However the current chapter is so short - only 4 sections - that all the AR teachers just agreed to skip the quiz, even though we all did a mid-chapter review lesson.

Anyway, we had a quiz. I didn't want to back out on that since I had the time and it was a good idea to quiz them before moving on to the next section's material anyway. Most did decently well, which is good.

But since this quiz didn't exist in the first place, I had to write it up myself. As I was writing it, I also took the opportunity to make my own Starter Question.

That is how the story finally comes full circle and relates back to the Scientific American article about students and their values. My question was:

What is your reason for doing well in school?

I did a little number crunching while grading these quizzes. Out of the 49 students who took the quiz, here were their answers:

3 said I don't know
3 said they just wanted to work hard/liked working
3 said they were doing it for the grades
4 wanted good jobs/money
4 wanted to be on sports teams and go to field trips (which require a certain GPA, as well as other things, at my school)
4 said they wanted to succeed/be somebody in life
5 said they wanted to please their parents OR to get their parents off their backs
7 said they wanted to go to college

If you are counting, that's 33 students with one of those above answers so far.

The remaining 16 left it blank.

As I said earlier, nearly all students write something when it comes to these Starter Questions. It's rare to have more than a handful who don't write anything at all. So why 16?

Possible reason #1: They don't know what their reason is, so left it blank.
Possible reason #2: They felt rushed on the quiz (I only gave them 15 minutes on 10 questions - unplanned quizzes are rushed, that's a lesson for me) and skipped it.
Possible reason #3: They don't really care about doing well in school, which is similar to the "I don't know" answer.

Weirdly, most students finished the quiz well within the time limit. So for the purpose of my experiment, I'm going to assume that these 16 blank answers are "I don't knows," making a total of 19 "I don't knows." This assumption may or may not be valid. Further study needs to be done - quite possibly in a more systematic and scientific way than this little mini experiment turned out to be.

19 out of 49 of my 8th graders say they don't know their reason for doing well in school. That's almost 39%.


1 comment:

Deb-chan here! ^-^/ said...

For what it's worth, I'd probably have left it blank at that age too. I wouldn't have known the answer and would have disliked the question's assumption that I had any reason at all.

Even in hindsight, I still don't know what the answer was during that time. I suppose I'd have gotten in trouble with my parents if my grades didn't remain half-decent, but really it was more that school work was just put in front of me by adults; parents forced me to go to school, school forced me to do work, so I did it. Following the path of least resistance, perhaps?