Monday, August 15, 2011

MCTM thinking

Marty Hogan @ Flickr
I didn't get to go to a lot of sessions at MCTM this year, as I only went one day and had to present a workshop twice.  But the three I did get to provoked a lot of thinking.

One session was a teacher sharing her structure for long division. She has a very clear and concrete worksheet style sheet they fill in.  Some people would call this terrible, some would call it terrifically clear.  What I love is that she was sharing her work that made a difference for students.  Her goal was to make visible the parts of long division that were transparent to her students.  She works with students that have failed in math before, accumulated negative attitudes and feel sentenced to math class.  With traditional long division instruction, she felt there were parts hidden from the students. Not knowing how to do those parts or even that those parts were there, they can't do long division despite being in high school.  The teacher noticed with these sheets she had developed that the students were more engaged, felt like they could do it, achieved a higher success on these problems, and were able to move on.  It connected for me with hearing Paula Lancaster talk about the benefits of structure in Universal Design. The teacher next to me asked lots of great questions: "were students able to use this structure without the sheets?" to "what was it about this structure that helped students?"

Another session was Danielle Seabold from Kalamazoo Regional Ed Service Agency. She connected the new Common Core standards for literacy to those for mathematics.  Nice for me to see was that many of the strategies from Mosaic of Thought have appeared in the CCSS and I love how those transfer to mathematics.  But more specifically, the Common Core has a Literacy in Technical Subjects component. Danielle did a great job leading a discussion about these, prompting us to look for connections and consider applications and opportunities.  She links to many CCSS resources at her blog.

The last session I got to attend was about implementation of Standards Based Grading by Amber Cross and Jason Gubeno from Dansville High School.  Very exciting.  Entirely teacher-led, with great support from administration and buy-in from parents, they have replaced traditional grading over the last three years, inspired by professional development with Carol Commodore and reading including Marzano on grading practice and purpose. They are very happy with the changes this has helped bring about in their students' learning. It has correlated with modest increases in test scores, but more importantly has changed student attitudes and focus.
From PAEC SBG course

Jason and Amber referenced the parachute example to support their intuition about why make the change.  They have a pretty clear system, one reassessment, a lot of emphasis on student accountability.  And they have modeled some excellent reflection in considering what worked and why, and how they might adjust.  I would love from them to write something up for the web about both their practice and their journey.

I was going to send them this great xkcd comic, but then Frank Noschese wrote a great little SBG post on it so I could send that instead.

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