In my area of the world, FEMA has gotten a lot of attention lately. It's been helping folks dry out after Sandy in lots of different ways.
I recently read an article discussing the tactics of W. Craig Fugate, the head of FEMA. In the article, his "Waffle House Matrix" was discussed. When determining the magnitude of an emergency, he immediately asks his team on the ground, "Are the Waffle Houses open?" If so, things are ok. However, if the Waffle Houses are closed, then things are looking pretty dire.
The reason that this philosophy works so well is because Waffle Houses' organizational philosophies require them to stay open as long as possible and to reopen immediately after an energy outage. In essence, they are a perfect "quick indicator" of progress regarding power and water.
So, I started to wonder-- what are my "Waffle Houses" in the classroom? What are my quick indicators that let me know when things are going awry with a task I've designed?
Here are some of my initial thoughts:
- Lack of willingness to persist on a task-- This is a big red flag to me. It means that the instruction is not of the appropriate rigor (either too easy or too hard) or the student does not have any connection to the task.
- Procrastination on a task-- Often in my online class, there will be 1 or 2 students who contribute to the discussion board every week just before assignments are due. These students miss all of the interaction that happens during the week to just "get it done." How can I better engage these students through my questions or video blog?
- Fear of taking a risk on a task-- If students are more concerned with getting the answers "right" than genuinely creating, then I know I've missed the mark. Most complex tasks have a range of answers that effectively satisfy the criteria set forth. If students don't feel empowered by this, I must change something.