I'm reading John Bean's Engaging Ideas: A Professor's Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom.
I'm reminded of one of my best professors in college. Before I got to college, he'd evidently been on an alcoholic slide. But by the time I took my first course with him, he'd turned things around, and in order to help himself lecture better, he recorded all his lectures. That was the part I knew about at the time; I heard about the alcoholic stuff long after. Anyway, my point isn't that I've been on an alcoholic slide, but that at what's probably mid-career for me, I'm trying to renew and refresh my teaching and do it better.
In some ways, Bean's book is encouraging. I think I do some of the things he suggests pretty well. Other things, I could do a lot better, and am thinking about how to incorporate some of his ideas into my courses.
One of the things he suggests is having students do open-ended writing (journals, in class, problem solving). All good. Then he suggests that the instructor doesn't need to really grade these, but could read them to keep a handle on how the student is progressing intellectually in the class.
And here's where I feel my shortcomings. I know people who can off the top of their heads, tell you in fair detail about a particular student's writing style. I can't, usually, unless there's something very different about the writing style.
Nor could I mentally keep track of how students are progressing, except in a general way. I notice, for example, when a student starts participating more or has more interesting things to say in class. But once we add in 20+ other students, I can't keep all that in my head (unless it's an unusual student).
So I have to write things down, just as I do for my advisees. Except for each advisee, I keep a file with notes from our meetings and such.
For my writing class students, I keep a separate page for each student, with the goal that when I grade an essay, I'll make notes about the issues (good and bad) so that I can refer back to those notes when I write a response on the next essay. I'll admit, as I've gotten busier (or lazier), I do this less and less, generally noting only serious problems at this point.
I do like about the page that I can hand a copy out the students at the beginning of the term, and encourage them to keep track of their assignments, too. The ones who do keep track seem to find that helpful.
But I don't keep separate pages for each student in the other classes. Instead, I enter their grades directly into an excel spreadsheet through the term. But since I'm most thinking right now about working with my lit students to improve their writing, maybe I should?
How do you folks keep track of your students' intellectual progress? Do you even try?