Student Evolution of Descriptions of Learning and Grades

I found this post accidentally saved as a draft from last December! The year referenced is the 2013-2014 school year. I should check this year’s student information survey and see if these patterns persist (although I don’t have Honors Physics students this year). I still want to share this; so, here it is….

At the start of every year, all of my students complete a survey which helps me get to know them better and faster. This year, I noticed a bit of a difference between the responses of my Honors Physics class and my AP Physics B class to a couple of questions. Most of the AP Physics B students took Honors Physics last year and experienced a year of standard-based assessment and reporting indoctrination. One question was “A grade of ‘A’ means …”. I captured the two classes’ responses in a Wordle cloud. My Honors Physics class:

Honors A

My AP Physics class:


I was pleased that both groups mentioned understanding. I found it interesting that mastered was more prominent with the 2nd year physics students. The Honors Physics students mentioned their parents but no one in AP Physics did. Overall, the AP Physics students had more varied descriptions.

I found the differences between the responses to the question “Learning is …” more insightful. My Honors Physics class:

Honors learning

My AP Physics B class:

AP learning

My conclusion? My Honors Physics students don’t yet understand what learning is; they could barely describe it. My AP Physics students had much richer descriptions that featured “knowledge”, “understanding”, “fun”, “awesome”, “new”, and “life.”

These word clouds illustrate the growth that students achieve on my colleague’s and mine physics course. This growth doesn’t show up on an AP exam, the ACT, or any other standardized test, but it is important.

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