Some of you may have read one or more of my previous blog entries related to Grading for Learning (linked below). As evidenced in those past posts, and supported by anyone who has ever ventured into a conversation with me about grading, I certainly am not short on words when it comes to this topic. It is a passion of mine that I don’t hide very well!
For today’s post, I thought I would step outside of my comfort zone and go in the complete opposite direction: almost NO words!
Disclaimer: this blog entry and its contents are intended to be lighthearted; yet, on topic. I did my best to find relevant memes with a low likelihood of offending readers. If I have missed either target, I do apologize.
Why Grading for Learning is important
Grading for Learning, Big Idea #1: Homework, quizzes, and other daily tasks are formative practice and should not negatively impact a summative academic grade
Grading for Learning, Big Idea #2: Reassessment is allowed on all summative assessments
Grading for Learning, Big Idea #3: Nonacademic factors are not counted in the summative academic grade
Grading for Learning, Big Idea #4: Only evidence of student proficiency toward learning targets on summative assessments is used to reach a summative academic grade
If you’d like to read any of my previous blog entries focused on Grading for Learning (G4L), visit the hyperlinks below. (But do know, they’re much wordier than the post above!)
If you have any questions about Grading for Learning, please do not hesitate to connect with me.
This post brought to you by Brandon Macrafic, POSA focusing on Career & College Readiness and administrator at CTECH
Lately, I have been thinking about my own education and how I, as a student, have changed over time. In my K-12 education, I was a successful student who was “good at school.” I did what the teachers and adults asked, I followed their examples of how to solve problems (I could follow any procedure in math when I knew the formula and worked through a few with the teacher), I followed their rules (no running, no swearing, etc.), and was always considered a “good kid.” Once I went to college to get my undergrad and later my master’s degree, I realized I wasn’t as "good at school" as I had once thought.
When I look back at why this shift occurred, I realize it was because as a K-12 student I wasn’t as interested in the learning and understanding of what I did, as I was with getting good grades (I was a passive learner), having teachers and classmates like me (the 'relator' in me) and being labeled as a "good student" and friend. Now, don’t get me wrong: I did learn a lot during my K-12 years of education and I had a lot of great teachers, I just didn’t always strive to know or better understand the “why” behind what I was learning. I simply wasn’t motivated to do so.
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Success Ready Individual
Becoming Culturally Responsive in Math Class
- How do I engage all my students in class?
- How do I find what works best for them to learn and to participate in class?
- How do I get students to stop saying things like: I am not a math person, I have never been good at math, or I don’t know why you think this year would be different?
How many of us, while sitting in meetings or presentations learning about CLR protocols, are left wondering, how do I use these in my math classroom?
While there is no quick fix or one simple solution, here are a few things to consider and try in your classroom that will engage your math students and create more culturally responsive learning spaces.
Recently, I came upon an article by Mark Ellis (access it here). In his piece, “Knowing and Valuing Every Learner: Culturally Responsive Mathematics Teaching,” he defines the idea of culturally responsive mathematics teaching (CRMT) as, “creating a learning environment focused on mathematical sense making in which each student feels valued for who they are, for their ways of engaging mathematical reasoning, and for their contributions to the collective success of those within the classroom community.” He goes on to talk about how CRMT requires teachers to (re)consider the mathematics learning environment they’ve created and how well it reflects these four elements:
- How am I ensuring my students learn mathematics with coherence?
- What connections and relationships will help them to build conceptual understanding?
The second element, “Engaging and Valuing Identities,” has these questions to think about:
- How do I learn about the experiences and interests of my students?
- How do I communicate that these experiences and interests are valued in relation to their learning of mathematics?
When addressing “Sharing Authority,” think about:
- What instructional routines do I use to scaffold students’ engagement in productive mathematical discourse and collaboration?
- Who is given mathematical authority in my classroom? Who is not?
Finally when thinking about the last element, “Applying Mathematics”, ask:
- How do I integrate concepts into instruction that are more relevant to my students?
- How am I helping my students to see ways to use mathematics to analyze and address issues within their community?
In this same article, Ellis goes on to share some examples of what CRMT is not versus what it is, since there are often misconceptions. There are shown below:
As I dug more deeply, I found this article by Omiunota Ukpokodu, published in Multicultural Education, which summarizes the types of questions teachers should be asking themselves to be self-reflective. She states that “culturally responsive mathematics instructional practice must first begin with teachers setting high expectations for all students, holding themselves personally responsible if their students are not achieving, creating motivation by demystifying mathematics as culturally neutral, and scaffolding students’ learning to ensure their success” (53). I liked this idea because it focuses on what I can do as a teacher to help all my students, rather than make excuses for why students are not achieving. Frequently asking ourselves as teachers these self-reflective questions pushes us out of our comfort zones, puts the focus on our students, and helps us become more culturally responsive teachers.
These questions include:
- Who is learning math in my classroom and who is not? Why/why not?
- What is my expectation for each of my students in mathematics learning?
- How am I scaffolding instruction for student mathematics learning?
- Do I use word problems that are familiar to my students?
- What social and community issues am I integrating into mathematic curriculum and instruction?
- Do I allow student so contextualize their thinking when practices and solving mathematics problems?
- Am I open to divergent thinking and problem processing style?
- Do I look only for the right answer that I know?
- Do I look to understand students’ strategies and logic when they engage in mathematical problem solving?
- How caring and supportive is the learning context I foster?
- How did each of my students do today?
- How was I responsive to each of my students today?
Identifying Empowering Teaching Practices. Multicultural Education. Spring 2011. 53.
To continue to grow and learn more about CRMT, consider follow the following people on Twitter:
Reimagining the Mathematics Classroom by Mark Ellis. You and your students will be very grateful that you did.
Mr. Knipshield, 'Nipper' as we called him, showed us movies, told us stories and had us read articles about driving. Along the way, he would give us quizzes to ensure that we were ready to pass our permit test so that we could graduate from the parking lot driving to the open road. My guess is that he would adjust his lessons based on what we still needed to know.For this portion of our learning, the permit test was the summative assessment. If we did not pass, we would be stuck in the parking lot.
As we were driving back and forth or in an oval in the parking lot, Nipper was talking to us over the radio in our cars. “Slow down, speed up, car #6-leave more space between you and the car in front of you.”
On the road, he was continually giving feedback and was even equipped with a brake in case of an emergency. We had to do our part, but we knew exactly what we needed to work on at all times.
So, what does this reminiscing have to do with classroom teaching? Everything. When we think of the power of formative assessment, it is incredible. Many educators argue that this is the most integral part of effective teaching. With regular formative assessments, both the student and the teacher know the next steps for teaching and learning. The student knows what they know and don’t know, and the teacher knows what to do next. By gathering this information, classrooms become less of a “string of activities” and more of a direction on a clear path.
As an assessment expert, Paul Black put it, “When the cook tastes the soup, that’s the formative assessment. When the customer tastes the soup, that’s a summative assessment.” One definition of formative assessment can be found here.
When I think of Nipper, he was continually individualizing our learning based on what we were doing at any given time. He would adjust our classroom lessons based on our quizzes, questions, and answer during class. He would adjust and give feedback on our behind-the-wheel lessons based on our driving performance. Depending on our need, he interacted with us differently. We all had the same goal in mind-passing the driving test! We just may have needed a different way of getting there.
In this article , there are 10 examples of formative assessments. By choosing the appropriate one for the situation, a teacher will be able to adjust instruction or practice to fit the needs of a learner or group of learners.
As I think back to Mr. Knipshield and his many classes of 15-year-old adolescents, I am thankful that he gave us all the feedback that we needed along the way. We needed to learn and practice in many different ways in order to become roadworthy. I am also aware that my learning is ever present. I am now the one that is formally assessing my driving. After 37 years of driving, I still need to check myself to ensure that my practice is up to par. This is the highest level that we can hope for our students to attain; to internalize the process and using it through life.
[Also, check out this blog for a peek at how formative assessment and self-assessment go hand in hand. This topic just may appear in a future blog post!]
From Whitewater to the Classroom
Every now and again, I take a class because I like to be reminded of how it feels to be a student. And as soon as I sit down in a desk, the questions start:
- “Will I be clock-watching all hour?”
- “Will I be given clear directions or will I have to muddle through to make my own understanding?”
- “Is this learning relevant—something I can actually use in my life?”
It’s a Metaphor (which is a strategy you can use . . .)
As you consider these two seemingly unrelated stories, there is a theme with one common burning question between them: WILL I BE ENGAGED?
Dropping Out: The Unengaged
In chapter one of Total Participation Techniques-Making Every Student an Active Learner, authors Persida and William Himmele cite the number one reason for dropping out of high school: BOREDOM (5). These dropouts are disengaged. Further, seventy-five percent of prison inmates are dropouts (5). The deleterious effect of disengagement in the classroom could mean a lifetime behind bars. Of course, this is one of many factors that may lead to incarceration, but it is worth investigating.
We Just Can’t Chalk and Talk Anymore
“If we want our students to actually learn the facts and concepts and ideas we’re trying to teach them, they have to experience those things.... They have to process them. Manipulate them. To really learn in a way that will stick, they have to DO something” ("To Learn, Students Need to Do Something", Jennifer Gonzalez, 2018).
To combat BOREDOM and to truly TEACH our students, we must engage them.
Quick and Dirty: Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down
“Thumbs Up if this speech is protected by the First Amendment. Thumbs Down if it isn’t.
- “Burning the flag.” [Thumbs Up]
- “Burning a draft card.” [Thumbs Down]
- “Hate speech.” [Thumbs Up]
- “Falsely yelling fire in a theater.” [Thumbs Down]
While engagement is high, this strategy falls under what the Himmeles call “Low Cognition/High Participation” (15). Everybody is engaged, but what higher-level thinking is going on? If we want “High Cognition/High Participation” (15), we’ve got to level up, but how?
Try Lighting a Fire
I have used this strategy in my sociology class as we discussed the very sensitive topic of Rape Culture. Because my students were allowed time to read an article, digest a quote, and respond to a question on their own, our conversation was deeper and richer than a whole-group discussion would have been. Every student participated and every student benefited from hearing the thoughts of those 3-4 around them.
There are hundreds of ways to engage students; I highly recommend what I referenced above: Total Participation Techniques: Making Every Student an Active Learner. It's full of quick and dirty methods to engage your students.
Now, it’s not WILL I BE ENGAGED? But, HOW WILL I ENGAGE?
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We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey, in their book The Purposeful Classroom: How to Structure Lessons with Learning Goals in Mind talk at length about the importance of establishing a purpose for yourself as the teacher and for your students, and that instruction and learning should be focused on learning targets rather than tasks. Memorizing the Preamble, to me, seems like a task; whereas, understanding what the Preamble represents and means to us as Americans seems more like a learning target.
In just under two years my son will have the opportunity to visit Washington D.C. and I hope that when he does he is able to take the values and ideas presented in the Preamble (and the entire Constitution for that matter) and make them come to life as he experiences our nation’s capital. And, when that time comes and he’s touring a national monument or walking down the national mall, should there be a sudden need for the exact wording of the Preamble, I hope he is able to successfully search the internet for this:
If you would like specific ideas for how to increase student understanding, replacing memorization-focused activities with those that increase students' learning-by-understanding, please reach out to your instructional coach or one of us here at Secondary C&I.
For the sake of context… I was a high school German teacher for five years, then a building administrator for nine years, and then a district-level administrator for three years. The closest I ever came in those 18 years to Career and Technical Education (CTE) was as a building administrator, but my level of understanding of the depth and importance of these program areas was limited at best. Additionally, it is safe to say that I was blissfully unaware of the workforce needs that currently exist within our region or the amazing opportunities our students have to gain valuable knowledge and skills that don’t require a four year degree (I recently came upon this MPR article that speaks directly to this very issue).
Fast forward one year and I count myself lucky to have been selected to work not only with our outstanding CTE instructors, but with a growing group of business and industry partners committed to the success of our CTE programs. As the cherry on top, I get to work each and every day in a facility that serves as a statewide model for innovation and collaboration within CTE. This school year alone we have facilitated over 30 tours of CTECH, from middle and high school student groups to statewide CTE administrators and other Minnesota and Wisconsin school districts looking to replicate what our community has created for our students.
Here is just a taste of the opportunities our students have within RPS career pathways:
Students can take coursework in both plant and animal science as well as biotechnology. Plus, in 2018-2019 RPS will be offering a second level Veterinary Studies course designed to prepare students for an entry-level position in a vet hospital and to take the certification exam for veterinary assistant.
Our students have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with basic engine systems, auto repair and technology, as well as in-depth vehicle repair. Just last week students visited the Minnesota Department of Transportation to learn about transportation careers and earlier this year, as a result of a teacher externship with a generous business partner, several automotive students received job offers as well as post-secondary scholarships.
Courses offered focus on both finance and marketing, including a Sports and Entertainment Marketing course. As a capstone course, students can enroll in Entrepreneurial Strategies, working directly with industry partners to solve real-world business challenges.
Computer Science and Information Technology
Students have the opportunity to take coursework related to both programming as well as infrastructure. Newly added are courses that allow students to earn concurrent enrollment college credit in Mobile App Development and Java Script.
RPS Construction students complete their coursework alongside post-secondary students in the RCTC carpentry lab, accessing two levels of coursework focused on residential construction. Currently our construction students are working on-site at Mayo High School to complete a shed construction project.
Available courses cover the areas of Robotics, Civil Engineering, and Architecture and culminate in a capstone course where students engage in a comprehensive research and design project. In 2018-2019 we will be introducing an Apprenticeship with a national engineering firm that will provide a first-of-its-kind learning opportunity for a small cohort of students.
Effectively our first official career pathway, existing for nearly 20 years, Health Sciences offers students the opportunity to study Medical Lab Science, Pharmacy Technician, Therapeutic Medicine, and Certified Nursing Assistant. We are currently exploring the addition of a course in Phlebotomy in partnership with the Mayo Clinic where over 400 phlebotomists are employed in Rochester alone.
Student interested in Culinary Arts have the opportunity to take a menu of courses the expose them to international cooking, commercial culinary skills, baking, as well as employment in the restaurant industry. Starting in 2018-2019 students at the capstone level will have the opportunity to complete ServSafe certification, required by most restaurants as a basic credential for restaurant management staff.
Two distinct pathways exist within the manufacturing program, Welding Technology and Machine Technology. In machine technology students work closely with CNC mill and lathe machining while welding students learn and work with multiple forms welding. Students who complete both levels of welding are eligible for a tuition credit through RCTC for their one semester welding certification program.
Through the University of Minnesota’s College in the Schools program, we now offer two courses for students interested in becoming teachers. These courses are a combination of classroom as well as practicum experiences within RPS schools and programs.
- Gage Elementary Community Schools Collaboration – connecting students in grades K-5 with career pathways through enhanced curriculum, CTECH visits, and business and industry guest speakers.
- Aviation Collaboration – discussions with RCTC, Rochester International Airport, and private flight instruction partners on a secondary > post-secondary > workforce pathway.
- Post-secondary Scholarships – working closely with RCTC to increase student opportunities to earn credit and/or tuition credits for work completed in high school.
- Mayo Clinic Partnership – exploring opportunities for students in Health Science Careers to transition from RPS coursework into Mayo Clinic job-specific programs such as Phlebotomists and Pharmacy Technicians.
- Core Content – an ongoing goal of eventually providing CTE students with the opportunity to earn core content credit as part of a career pathway.
I fully acknowledge that my blog post comes across as an advertisement for the CTE pathways and CTECH, but I believe that when we find and experience something as powerful and meaningful as I have this year it only makes sense to share it with others. I would strongly encourage anyone who hasn’t previously had the opportunity to see firsthand our CTE facilities to reach out and schedule a tour. It is truly amazing what our students are doing on a daily basis and I look forward to seeing what they do in the future.
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Members of the Secondary C&I team weekly post useful tools, tips, and tricks to help you help students.
Analysis & Inquiry
Grading For Learning
Instructional Learning Formats
Planning For A Sub
Quality Of Feedback
Regard For S's Perspective