Friday, February 14, 2014

Week 2 reflections (sem 2, year 3) - Math Analysis

We're 2 weeks in to the second semester and I've implemented a few changes that I hope will be positive.

First, I am requiring that all students at all levels of achievement, at minimum, have the examples and notes from the video fully complete.  If that's not done when they come to class, they have to go off to the side and finish that (putting today's date on the "not prepared" list).

Second, I am trying to structure the WSQ chat time to include some aspect of reviewing the key points or common questions (without reteaching it), practicing the concept (in groups, partners, peer instruction, etc), and then some sort of interactive discussion or kinesthetic activity.  My goal at the end of the WSQ chat is for students to be able to self-evaluate and say, "Okay, I learned the lesson, I reviewed the lesson, I practiced the lesson... how much more practice do I need for this concept?  Am I ready to move on or should I focus on some more problems?  Can I do those problems individually, or do I need a group or Mrs. Kirch's guided help on these problems?"  The WSQ chat time takes the first 15-20 minutes of class, leaving 35 minutes for students to continue to discuss, practice, take quizzes, or move on.

Third, I am not requiring any practice problems beyond the video notes and the WSQ chat practice... students are given practice problems (PQs) to complete and they are given the freedom to choose how many they need to do. This is a scary move for me, but I am sick of dictating their every move and forcing them to mindlessly complete problems to check something off a list.  It is a learning experience for everyone... and I do have to constantly stay on them and remind them to make wise choices and that mastery will come with practice.  But, I'd rather that desire to practice be intrinsic rather than simply extrinsic - I think it is more meaningful when they are practicing to learn rather than practicing to get a "stamp" on their assignment chart. Also, because of the changes made in my "first" and "second" comments above, I think this is a more "doable" thing because students are still getting an amount of practice in no matter what.

We had our first test of the second semester and the results were better than I expected - it was a tough chapter, open notes (always do this, but don't tell students until the day of the test so they prepare as if it was not), and we got class averages of 76, 78, and 83. [side note - isn't it just so strange how even within one course of "similar" incoming students the averages can range that much!]. I went back to my data I collected pre-flip 4 years ago and it was almost 6% higher average; 10% less D/F grades and 12.5% more A/B grades.  Obviously this data isn't 100% comparable because it was a different group of students, but it's still encouraging to look back and see a great difference.

Another new thing I am doing this semester is that if a student does get a D or F on a test, I hold it in "embargo" until they come chat with me in person.  I've seen way too many students who don't even look thru their test to see their mistakes and make a plan for re-assessing, especially when they don't do that well.  I've met with half the students who got a D or F on this test already, and it was encouraging for some students to see that with one tiny re-assessment, their grade would be improved up to a solid B because their mistakes were small errors like dropping a negative that led to the whole problem being messed up or something like that.  It also gives me a time to meet with the struggling students individually and talk about focus, work ethic, and how much practice they did to prepare for the test.  We'll see how this continues through the semester to see if it's something I think worth continuing.
I'd like to find a way to do something similar to what Graham (Johnson - does with his "Hotseat", but with 36-37 students and 54 minute periods, I don't have time to check in with all of them in a meaningful way.  But, maybe I can find a way to spread it out over a couple days before the test to make sure they are ready, and keep track of it on a roster so I make sure I hit everyone.  My one hurdle is that my students are so darn good at blowing off struggle and assuring me they are fine even when they can't explain the problem to me. So, I will help them out, re-explain something, and have them work on a couple more, asking them to call me back over if they are struggling.  I'll be honest, sometimes I remember to come back and check in with them and sometimes I just don't with all the students I'm jumping to and from in class. They think they'll do fine on the test despite this, and reality won't hit until they get the test back and see they should have practiced more.

I started using a Concept Chart at the end of 1st semester for students trying to raise their grade and it got such positive feedback I made one for second semester and printed it on cardstock for the students.  I think it's a great tool for them and for me in monitoring progress and am hoping it will lead to students taking a more active role in re-assessing on concepts they struggled on sooner rather than later

To re-assess, students have to follow the instructions at and fill out this half-sheet.  I've changed my re-assessment protocol at least every year, and am hoping I'll be happy with this way.

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