In theory, I had a good semester. I have been more inspired and thoughtful this semester about my practice than every before, and I implemented several key changes that I am confident are good moves.
In practice (meaning in measurable outcomes with my students) I think my exams will show that the semester was actually rather middling.
The problem, of course, comes from trying LOTS of new things, with lots of big ideas. In some ways, this semester was a little bit like being a new teacher again, considering the number of changes I made, so I made plenty of new teacher mistakes.
So, inspired by the phrasing of my student evaluations (whose format I stole borrowed from Sarah Hagan (mathequalslove), here are my Keep, Change, Start, and Stop plans for next semester.
- Standards based grading
- Focusing on explanation and the “why,” especially in geometry, but equally in statistics
- Using Khan Academy for practicing algebra skills in geometry. It works.
- Using a shared notes system in Microsoft OneNote to distribute information and organize things
- I need to assess more frequently and find a better, simpler system for reassessment. This is crucial, I think, if I want SBG to reach its full potential. One idea: 10-15 minute quizzes/graded activities every class period (I am on 80-minute blocks) that assesses one or two unassessed standards and one or two previously assessed ones. I would lag these, so they would always assess standards that were at least three class periods old. The new standards would be announced, but the previous ones will not. This will be followed each class period by 10-15 minutes of homework review (to solidify older standards), then 20-30 minutes of activity/exploration, followed by 15-20 minutes of practice on new ideas. There will still be larger activities/tests (cuulative) to solidify grades, but the quizzes will become the primary method of assessment AND reassessment.
- Spiral homework/practice. I like the idea of lagging, but think on my schedule I prefer spiraling. So each homework will contain 10 minutes of work on new material, 10 minutes of work on material from two days ago, and 10 minutes of mixed review.
- In AP Statistics, I am going to start alternating between practice homework sets and flipped lectures / note-taking / practice for homework. We spend too much time taking notes in that class, and I need to find some more space for explorations, simulations, and activities.
- I need to find a more efficient system of grading, especially if I am going to implement regular quizzes. This is a personal bugaboo that I need to solve.
- I need to start asking more of my students, I think. I have a tendency to demand too little for much of the quarter, then suddenly demand too much. I need to be more consistent.
- Of all of the student responses I received under the “Stop” category, only one really stopped me in my tracks. One student stated that it is unfair because I am “too nice” – basically, that I give students to much help on assessments. I think this is a valid criticism. When students are taking assessments, I get very nervous, and tend to blame myself for any and all confusions, so when the confusion hits me in the face I tend to overcompensate. This is something I intend to be very focused on watching out for starting now.
- Spending so much time thinking about big philosophical ideas that I run out of time for implementing the day to day! I need to improve my actual lesson plans, not my unit plans.
- Making big curriculuar changes without really thinking through all of the consequences.
- I actually think I covered a lot of this in the “Change” section. Start the new homework and assessment policies. That’s really my big one. And I’m going to focus on that, rather than so many big sweeping curricular changes.