Eight (yes 8!) Goals for This School Year
Every year I make two or three personal teaching goals for the coming year…but I never write them down and I rarely tell anyone. This year I have told many people, and I have more than a few goals – eight in all! Some of them are new for me and some of them are simply a desire to continue what I’ve been doing, but do it better. Still others I could really use some help with, so I’d love any feedback.
1. Step up my SBG game
Last year I tried my best to implement at least a version of Standards-Based Grading. It certainly wasn’t “pure” SBAR, although I don’t think that I want it to be. I gave a presentation at New Tech’s Annual Conference about how we graded and ended up learning a lot from other teachers (go figure). One element I want to add this year for skills assessments is a simple rubric at the top (or bottom) of the quiz that lets learners know up front what will be considered “Proficient”. Last year I made the determination about what “Proficient” meant after the quiz was already done. Big mistake.
[Update: It didn’t take long to get more info on this one. The same day I posted it, I found this post from Dan Bowdoin…between his post itself and the plethora of links, I think I’ve got exactly what I need.]
2. Improved questioning and mathematical discourse
This is a repeat goal for me. How I interact with learners and the environment that we set up as a class for mathematical discussion has always been important to me, but boy do I need a lot of improvement. An eye-opener for me prior to last year was watching this video of Deborah Ball, dean of the School of Education at the University of Michigan, teaching a group of fifth grade students (scroll down to the BlueStream button). The eye-opener: never once does she say that an answer is right or wrong…she just facilitates the discussion so that the students make that determination. Recently, I came across David Cox’s post on Creating a Culture of Questions and was amazed at how similar his description was to how I tried my best to run class last year. If anyone has other suggestions for resources on this kind of thing, particularly facilitating mathematical discourse, I would love to hear from you.
3. Continue having learners create tutorial videos
Last year we received some grants to have learners create tutorial videos (similar to Khan Academy only in the sense that they are videos – the value was in their creation, not their use). I saw many benefits in this process, but I made soooo many mistakes in its implementation. In fact, I have yet to upload any videos because I’m still deciding if I should – here is where they would go. The problem: I did not build in enough time for drafting, revision, reflection, and checkpoints. In other words, the final products ended up so full of mistakes that I may not be able to post them at all. Big lesson learned.
4. Provide a video alternative to practice (aka homework)
As I reflected on what went wrong with the tutorial videos, I thought that it would have helped if I’d had groups create a simple video of themselves explaining the concept on a whiteboard. Then I thought, why not do that for a regular assignment? I (and the learners) could get way more information about their understanding and their misconceptions from them explaining a single problem than I could from seeing thirty problems they’ve done on paper. The only issue is I haven’t worked out exactly how to do it. We have mini-whiteboards, and every learner has a laptop with a webcam…suggestions???
(As a side note, I’d be remiss not to mention that I don’t give homework very often, and only after its purpose is clear. Just saying.)
5. Give feedback in a more timely manner
Another repeat goal. I’ve got to get quicker at giving feedback to learners…I’m talking same day or next day. The value of it can’t be overstated. I think I’ll be able to do a better job this year; last year we were creating a new school – year two will be easier…right?
6. Continue to celebrate mistakes
I try to create an environment where it’s understood that we are all learning together, and that mistakes are another tool to help us learn. Last year after handing back a practice assignment, we would celebrate our “favorite wrong answer” – an idea that I stole from Leah Alcala’s “My Favorite No”.
I also love the idea behind Michael Pershan’s page, Math Mistakes, and he also tweeted this over the summer:
I haven’t figured out the logistics yet, but I’d love to do this in my math class one way or another. Again, any suggestions would be awesome.
7. Math Whiteboarding!
Having followed Frank Noschese’s blog, I’ve been interested in using whiteboards more effectively…but it didn’t make it onto my plate last year. But now I’ve seen how Bowman Dickson has used whiteboarding for math, and Kelly O’Shea’s mistake game sounds fantastic. I can’t wait to try these out.
8. Incorporate more student passion into my class
As I found out through writing and reflecting on this post on passions, this is not so easy. But I think I’ve got some good ideas…we’ll see what happens.
So there you have it. I’ll definitely update as the year progresses…