Changing Our Curriculum

(Note: Miles wrote this article for his New Journalism class.) On January 14, 2015, the Student Academic Board sent out a survey to the entire student body asking questions in order to provide the faculty with information on how to better run our curriculum at Latin. As a co-head of the board, I was given insight into the responses. There were a total of 284 responses to the four question survey. The following questions were asked: 1. Toward the end of last semester you had an opportunity to provide teachers with feedback. Have any of your teachers discussed the feedback with your class? The results we received for this question were a bit alarming. Only 21.83% of students who responded to the survey claimed that several teachers had discussed feedback given by the students, and 45.42% of students claimed that at least one of their teachers discussed feedback. The most concerning figure was that 32.75% of students said none of their teachers had addressed feedback given in class. One student said, “My math teacher compiled a graph of the data. My Spanish teacher created a rubric he will give us every cycle for in class performance.” Another said, “They didn’t say much about it.” It seemed that the particular teachers that developed their own method of feedback aside from the department were the most effective in discussing their results with their students. Some faculty members have received this feedback and are working on an effective way to resolve the issue. 2. In recent years there have been many changes to the academic environment (e.g., introduction of physics first, revised final exam schedule for end of first semester, shift away from AP’s). Comment on how any of these changes have affected your academic experience. This question succeeded in being the least helpful question we asked. Students were all over the board (as expected). Most students that responded felt that the faculty has been moving in a great direction and that their overall experience has been anywhere from slightly improved to dramatically improved. The only issue students were torn on was the effectiveness of AP’s. Some believed that moving away from AP’s made the environment much less competitive; one student raised concerns and noted that “shifting away from APs makes me a tad nervous for taking either the AP/SAT2’s since most of the colleges I and my fellow classmates hope to go to require that kind of testing.” While APs have been a long standing issue during my time in SAB, I have felt that the shift away from them will make junior year far less stressful, and as someone who has gone through the college process, I have found that if your school does not offer a particular program you cannot be penalized for it. 3. How do you feel about the current system of honors classes at Latin? On a similar note, those that were in honors classes love the rigor and challenge of the course, and some even wanted more. One student said, “The English department needs to expand and offer more honors/elective courses.” A concern students raised is the concept of language honors. People felt that “language is unfair because [both honors and regular] are learning the same material.” As someone who has been enrolled in both honors and regular language courses, this is an issue I have been concerned with and can confirm that this is, for the most part, accurate;  however, I cannot speak for the other classes. 4. Flipped classrooms have become more common in recent years. Have you experienced a class set up in this manner? Most people who took the survey have not experienced a flipped classroom, but there was an interesting outcry from students who had. Those that experienced a flipped classroom in a humanities course felt that it made the classroom much more engaging. In math, however, the majority of students believed that it was not as effective. One student noted, “I found that I just wanted to learn and that students teaching the class hindered my learning. I really disliked my math class last year because of this. I am in a class to be taught mainly by a teacher, and for me, the purpose is defeated while the classroom is flipped.” The faculty is insistent on the flipped classroom. While students may not be used to this unorthodox method, the math department believes that the flipped classroom will help students gain a better understanding of pre-calculus. 5. Are there any academic related issues that you consider concerning and/or important for SAB to discuss and share with faculty? The purpose of the survey was for students to identify what they believe to be problems with the Latin School curriculum, which they did in their previous responses. In the fifth question, however, students pointed out that they love the changes Latin has made, and upperclassmen especially felt that the school was moving in a great direction and are “excited to see how the school will have changed when we come for our reunions.”  ]]>