Welcome back to Flipping the Focus.
In my last post, I mentioned that Will Richardson has also made me think more deeply about how my 'Why' will manifest in the classroom, with my colleagues, and abroad. Will writes, ...
"Doing the right thing in schools starts with one fairly straightforward question: What do you believe about how kids learn most powerfully and deeply in their lives? Once you’ve answered that as an individual and as a school community, the question that follows is does your practice in classrooms with kids honor those beliefs?"
Reflection, as a process skill, is deeply powerful at helping us to improve our ability to teach and learn. Equally important is to balance or to inform our reflection with multiple perspectives in pursuit of authentic learning—not merely confirming what we know to be true or might be true. This is why I truly enjoy engaging in inquiry with my students and colleagues—researching and pushing the boundaries of current practice to helping students unlock their potential and supporting my colleagues in their own endeavors.
Recently, I included the following statement as a part of a mid-term report card comment: “During small-group problem solving, _______ takes on an active role—asking questions and clarifying learning goals and strategies being used. Alongside his/her peers, an excellent goal would be to continue clarifying goals and criteria for successful learning with his/her teacher—goals, before and after learning; criteria, during and after learning.”
In this instance, the student is making successful moves as an advocate for their own learning during inquiry: I couldn’t be happier with their success thus far.
But, this isn’t the norm—at least, not yet. Not all students have yet unlocked their potential as drivers of their own learning.
And the more I see the possibilities for students to deepen their learning during activities, tasks requiring collaboration, and discussion, the more I also see it as important that students become, not only proficient users, but experts at incorporating accountable talk moves into their work. And as a key partner in my students’ learning, it is also critical that I continue to create ‘windows’ of opportunity for making these moves explicit to all and celebrating with students as they change their thinking by using these ‘moves’.
Linked (https://goo.gl/DD2xPy) is a tracking tool that my students and I are learning to use ("SRG" = Student Research Group) to improving our abilities in being more accountable to thinking critically and sharing our thinking with others. Several resources have been instrumental in developing the tool, along with the support of various colleagues (below).
1. Principles to actions: Ensuring mathematical success for all. (2014). Reston, VA: NCTM.
2. Smith, M. S., & Stein, M. K. (2011). 5 practices for orchestrating productive mathematics discussions. Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
3. West, L. (2016). Cultivating Classroom Discourse to Make Student Thinking Visible: Operating Principles. Retrieved October 17, 2016, from http://www.metamorphosistlc.com/index.php/free-resources/handouts.html
As a diagnostic survey at the start of our inquiry (below; also linked: https://goo.gl/YMXDTv), many students responded as ‘neutral’ (on a Likert scale) to feeling entitled to sharing and being heard by their peers during math class. As a goal, we’d like to see the scale tip in favor of a ‘4 or 5’. At the end of the semester, we’ll return to administering this survey to seeing if there has been an effective move along the scale.
Although in its early stages of adoption and implementation, the tool is becoming useful for some students’ reflection. Occasionally, when students are asked to reflect (assessment as learning), they are becoming cognizant of the specific strategies they’re using and are also beginning to use the language of these strategies.
Moving forward, I am excited to seeing students grow in their ability to communicate, collaborate, create, and think critically during their Mathematics classes. And as mentioned in the introduction to this post, as active researchers in our practices, it’s important that we challenge our beliefs and potential biases. Thus, upon examining this post or the attached accountable talk tracking tool, if you have comments or suggestions, please feel free to send them along.
In closing, if you happen to have some resources on the subject(s) that you’d like to recommend, please share. And if you’re interested in studying accountable talk in your classroom(s), I’m open to collaborating and discussing the survey and tracking tool with you: just let me know.
Sincerely & Collegially Yours,
Chris Stewart, OCT
North Grenville DHS