Racing with my students: a race chart to visualize progress

When I began teaching at EDEM business school, I started a very risky project. I wanted to deploy a complex methodology, where being passive in class would not be an option.

See, I understand time in life is extremely valuable, so each minute in class must count. Therefore I seek a method that minimizes time dedicated to the subject to obtain the best possible outcome while enjoying the process (life).

Also, I understand that learning is one of the finest and most pleasant instincts we have. We learn every day, no matter what, no matter how passively we live our lives. Our natural way is a learning process. Starting from the basics when we are newborns and ending to the most difficult learning adventure: to get old and leave this world. Consequently, being a person in front of a group of people, teaching, is a privilege that I take quite seriously.

In my understanding, a professor teaches not only with written or spoken words but through dialogue. The reasoning is the key to the growth of our knowledge, and reasoning can only lead to significant knowledge IF and ONLY IF we engage it, activate it in the learning process. Therefore, being passive is not an option, is a waste of a student’s very valuable time.

Through the years of experience, I have now, I have come to the conclusion that there are very powerful and pleasant tools to activate reasoning: a sense of humor, empathy, riddles… basically challenging your mind in a good way. As a teacher, you do not need to be like an actor in class. In fact, students do not appreciate a stand-up comedian-type of a professor as much as you would think. You can be rather apathetic, even quiet, and still be able to activate your student’s curiosity through questioning, experimentation, and discussion.

Although, my intention here is not to explain how the method works (between the reasons are the intention to publish the method) rather focusing on presenting a little piece of evidence that have called my attention recently.

The following figure shows an interesting twist. This is a “race chart”. Blue line is how students have scored me (over 100), yellow is how I score the students, represented by the percentage of them that have passed the subject in the first sitting of the exam. Click replay to see the race 😉

While I was ahead of the competition in the first two years, this year, students have massively passed the subject. I understand the improvement made in the subject has something to do with that (not all, obviously). Since I started teaching this subject in this school three years ago I feel I have made quite progress with the methodology: improving materials, story-telling, session dynamics, rethinking evaluation, so it is fair enought to say I have something to do with that.

Besides, this year, the covid-19 pandemic have challenged the methodology quite strongly, while the number of students group has almost doubled (no students taking international academic years). Although results show how the percentage of students that managed to pass in the first sitting has increased by 21 percentual points, overtaking me in this score-race.

Some of you may be wondering if the covid-19 situation may have affected the evaluation criteria in a way that may have influenced these improvements. The answer is no. The covid-19 criteria applied commonly in the school have been to modify weights between course-activities and final exams. I have recalculated the scores using pre-covid criteria and the number of students who pass the subject remains the same, while 77% of the students would have decreased their final grade by 0.2 points (on average, sd=0.14), and 15% would have improved it by 0.1 points (on average, sd=0.11).

There is another interesting point to comment on here. Although there is very little data yet. It seems to be a trade-off between how hard I push students (hence they pass easily), and how they rate me. In numbers, while they have increased 21 percentual points, I have decreased by 5 percentual points since last year. While the score is decreasing the qualitative assessment remains similar to previous years. Although the score decrease is something I really want to take into consideration.

You see, the school I proudly work in, requires teachers to pass yearly-high-quality controls and, among the KPI used, there are the results from student surveys. They include a quantitative score presented in previous Figure, and a very interesting qualitative assessment. Those providing an amazing tool for improvement and, I have to say, also personal motivation. I receive encouraging congrats, also messages of the type “leave it, woman” which encourage even more, and the most interestings for me are those that assess the methodology. Certanly, the key element to fight in the race are in theses assessments.

Some conclusions:

  • 1- The more mature the method, the better the results from the students.
  • 2- The higher the implication required by the methodology from the students, the higher their sucess passing the subject in the first sitting.
  • 3- Although the higher the implication required, it seems to affect students’ assessments of the teaching method negatively.

Anyway, what is important to me is that, in the end, the students win the race!

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