Sunday, September 18, 2011

Midterms - Reflecting on Reflective Learning

It's mid-term and parent-teacher conferences are next week. For me this means it's time to reflect on how to best inform parents/guardians about this different method of teaching math that their child has been involved with for half a quarter. So I did a little research into my past classes and decided to compare them with this year's scores.

Since starting this reflective learning process with my students, scores on my chapter assessments have increased. It is entirely possible that my students this year are better equipped for my Algebra 2 class (or just smarter) than they have been in the past, but seeing that class averages on tests increased 4 percentage points is still pretty exciting. One takeaway for sure, reflective learning hasn't impeded their progress.

I know the system isn't perfect; I don't know that it will ever be perfect. For instance, the reflections from some students have been insightful and just plain outstanding, while others are lacking. Reflections like, "this homework was hard" aren't reflective, they're status updates.

Even though it takes more work and energy from me, I like this reflective learning addition to my teaching. Any reflections of your own on what I'm doing? Or is it enough to say that reflective learning seems like a good thing?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mastery Learning - One week in...

OK.. they don't write like this!
My students write. Every day.

As educators we value what we learn from being reflective. In college I was taught that this was called being a "reflective practitioner." (or as I like to say, "reflective learner") In fact, my professors emphasized this practice so much that I'm pretty sure I used those words in every interview I ever sat down to in the pursuit of a teaching position.

So if we, the teachers, are reflective learners, why not encourage and enable our students to do the same?

I should rephrase my previous statement.

My students reflect on their learning in writing. Every day.

Having my students write is nothing new to my math classroom, but this has been different. The grade my students receive on their assignments places more value on what they got out of the lesson, then on whether they got through the lesson.

This is all part of focusing my students on being worried about mastering what they learn and not just getting through the material.

Last year was the first year of the effort, and the adjustment *we made to it this year has students reflecting on their homework assignment once they have finished it. There has been a bit of a learning curve for the students, which is to be expected, but I'm really excited about how this could help push my students. It's already pushing me and changing how I interact with students. I read their responses every day and return them immediately with feedback when it's needed. It's like having 30 private conversations with my students and no one was privy to its contents. (Listen to that reflective learner talk!)

So, one week into this adjustment to our mastery learning pursuit and I am pleased with the change. If you want to hear more about how *we are pushing, expecting and achieving mastery with our math students, come back again. I will continue posting about the mastery learning experience! 

*My brilliant colleague, Amy Schander, and I are Mastery Learning partners-in-crime. Thus why I say "we" instead of "I" :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

First Day of School

Tomorrow is the first day of school.. for teachers. I feel like a student who is excited to see all her friends after a summer away. Every year this excitement reminds me of how fortunate I am. I work in a great school, with wonderful colleagues, outstanding and supportive administration and awesome students.

I love my job. I'm pretty lucky.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A new beginning

Every August as the new school year approaches reality, I find myself daydreaming. A lot. Sure, I daydream about normal stuff like really delicious and fresh corn on the cob, but a lot of my time is spent thinking about my classroom.

I look at every new school year as the perfect opportunity to improve or even try something totally different! The sophomores and juniors in my classroom are very different than the ones I had 5 years ago, even the ones I had last year. So, if my kids are changing, then I need to be ready to do the same.

I saw this infographic (a great way to explain data visually and succinctly) at that looks at the relationship students have with technology. The Twitter stat, next to the #hashtag, is especially interesting to me.
Students Love Technology
Pretty engaging means of explaining data, huh? I'm thinking back to all the infographics I've poured over in the last couple months and I think I need to utilize this means of organizing and explaining data - by having my students do it. Infographic.. think about.