In the last post, a detailed look was taken at one means through which school improvement teams could enact their 'How.' For your consideration, a developing series of tools & resources (i.e., for additional learning) have been posted here.
Recently, as set in the context of supporting student and professional learning, a colleague and I were considering strategies to getting to the 'What' of school improvement in a Grade 9 Mathematics class. For contextual purposes, this time of year in Ontario marks the beginning of semester 2 courses, leading up to Spring Break: the perfect time to looking upon students' past learning experiences and contemplating how to increase student engagement moving forward.
As per their school's goal in Mathematics, the importance of students improving their confidence in self-assessment (i.e., in relation to success criteria) had been identified. With this in mind, we set our minds to contemplating the collaborative inquiry we might engage in to helping students come to the knowledge that 'they can?'
"Yes, I Can!"
A recent publication, "Yes, I Can!," published by the Ontario Ministry of Education (pdf, below) portrays the multi-faceted nature of approaching such problems of practice (i.e., identifying the components necessary to building student well-being through mathematics).
On page 6, one of the key learnings of a five-year inquiry in the Province of Ontario is that
"[s]tudent self-assessment is linked to student well-being."
We know that students require mathematical experiences where they are engaging in uncovering and authoring criteria necessary for understanding and solving problems. And by interacting with descriptive feedback, relating and acting out upon feedback in relation to criteria for success, students become more adept at self-assessment--i.e., knowing what 'good' looks like and when it is achieved.
It follows that the more experience a student has in developing confidence in their self-assessments, the more capable they become in setting goals for their learning and monitoring achievement of these goals.
Returning to the professional discussions with my colleague (i.e., How might we help students come to the knowledge that 'they can?'), it became clear, in part, that we need to use problems where students are allowed to approach solutions in many different ways.
Other considerations for creating a space more conducive for students to build their self-confidence are described below.
Recently, a framework for enacting pedagogical practices that can engage both teachers and their students in occasioning worthwhile tasks, developing responsive classroom environments, culturing classroom discourse, and use of tools and representations for thinking is that of "Thinking Classrooms" (see Dr. Peter Liljedahl's summary on Edutopia and 2017 OAME Leadership Conference keynote for background).
This framework presents an interesting opportunity to engage the four, pedagogical practices above, as well as enacting the recommendations made by researchers (i.e., those identified (above) for building student well-being, thus bringing the vision of the mathematics learner to light--for both student and teacher.
With current research recommendations, our professional practice, a keen desire to know and support our learners, and a school-level inquiry into the impact of students' self-confidence upon their achievement in mathematics, we had much to go on in setting directions with students to teaching and learning in ways that might better serve both teachers and students.
The lesson elements, observations, reflection and developmental next steps (i.e., for students and ourselves) are also linked to both the four domains of the pedagogical system and where these elements might also occur in a lesson using guided inquiry (stages of Before, During, After) through the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions.
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As co-teachers, we did just that: planned and taught together. We experienced an excellent 'back-and-forth:' What was invisible to one of us was made visible by the other. When we made 'moves,' we not only explained them to one another, but we modeled this for students and explained why we were making them. We openly shared our reflections and invited input from students about process and what we might consider doing differently. We were empowered by students to facilitate their learning because we had access to their ongoing and developing thinking...we were (all of us) engaged in assessment for learning.
For students, we (in a short time), engaged them in considering learning through a non-traditional manner (e.g., rich/open problems, collaborative work with #vnps, and making visible & discussing their thinking to uncovering what was important...meaningful). And most significantly, we noted how quickly their knowledge was mobilized, noticed and referenced by others using this type of classroom setting.
As per classroom discourse, this is an area of great interest and development for us.
What value do we see in/place on it?
What value do students assign to it?
Altogether, if we value it, how will we co-construct and enact principles for occasioning it?
In short, teachers and administrators recognize that for many classroom types to thrive (e.g., #thinkingclassroom, #flipclass, #blendedlearning), both teachers and students need to engage in making and discussing their thinking in a visible manner; that is, we need to respectfully occasion and remain within spaces of argumentation where we are productively reasoning and proving one another's conjectures to derive a deepened sense of mathematical understanding and ability to solve problems--supporting both the individual and the group. In these 'spaces,' we have the potential to gain traction in creating and sustaining vibrant, mathematical communities.
And in relation to this class, our collaboration, and this school's improvement processes--where students see themselves as assessment-capable and confident learners--we are laying the groundwork for supporting students' well-being. Through these types of experiences, students can come to the understanding that 'they can' and that 'we can', too.
Some Questions for Your Reflection
-How have you helped/are helping students occasion thinking in mathematics such that they come to know that 'they can'?
-How have you worked/are working with school teams to create/creating an understanding that 'we can'? How are you taking action on this understanding?
-What elements of the #thinkingclassroom (or other classroom) are you and your students working on? What has been the impact upon student learning and your 'moves' as an educator?
-What are you wondering about student-centered approaches to teaching and learning? Student-centered leadership?
In closing, I hope that you have not only found this post informative but supportive towards how you can better address your face-to-face time with students, colleagues, and/or network partners, as you engage in exploring your professional and school improvement practices that can be potential 'game-changers' for student achievement, equity and well-being.
Be sure to check the blog and/or website, periodically, for updates regarding a depository of several tools & resources to help you in your teaching and/or instructional leadership journeys.
Chris Stewart, OCT
Learning Partner, Upper Canada District School Board
Founder & Educational Consultant, Flipping the Focus