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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Personalized Learning

Today, I tried an experiment in my Pure Math 30 class. I gave the students a photocopy of the notes for the day and asked them to read the notes, add to the notes, discuss the notes amongst their group. (I have my students sitting in groups of 4).

Essentially I was having my students learn the material on their own!!!! Man was this awesome!!! The lesson that normally took me 60 minutes to teach was transformed into a self-paced, personalized learning experience for each and every student. It was amazing!!! The students help each other and clarified their understanding by asking me specific questions while I wondered around the room.

After about 20 minutes every single student was working on their assignment for the day. They now had the opportunity to complete their assignment in class, ask each other for assistance and ask me if they were really stuck.

About half way through the class I asked the students how they liked what we were trying today. Here are some of the responses.

"I could learn like this everyday."
"I like this way better"
"I don't learn like this. I need to hear the explanations."

All in all I can't think of why I did not try this a long time ago. I guess fear had a little bit to do with it. Today I jumped in to the deep end of the pool and did not drown. In fact, because I took a risk my students are having a far better learning experience than I have ever provided to them before. I am really glad I took the risk today.

Monday, September 13, 2010

First Exam - Math 10 Common

Myself and my other dept. members (Lara and Emerson) have spent the last few days creating our first unit exam for our Math 10 Common course. Since we are running this course using a standards based grading model we had to come up with a test creation blueprint. Thanks to Lara, our keener, here is the blueprint we used to create our unit exam.

This blueprint is also what we are going to have our students use to self-assess how they performed on each outcome on the exam. The students will then use this self-assessment to help determine which outcome(s) they wish to reassess on.

I did not post the actual exam for fear that my tech savvy students would locate the exam. That would just be bad news.

If you would like to see the exam just drop me a tweet or e-mail and we will make arrangements for this to happen.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Standards Based Grading - Oberservations

So, today I returned the graded quizzes to my Math 10 common students. Some were happy with their "grade" others were not. Then I had them turn to the self-assessment rubric on the back side of their quiz. I gave them a few minutes to rate themselves on how they performed on each outcome. I was amazed at how serious most of the students took the task. Then they had to explain why they gave themselves the rating they chose. Finally, I asked them to write a sentence or 2 about how they were going to try to improve on the outcomes they did not perform well on.

I had them hand this in so I could read what they wrote. Here are some of their comments:

"I need to do my homework."
"I am going to go back, re-read my notes and do some of the questions in our workbook that were not originally assigned."
"I am going to ask my mom if she can find me a tutor."
"Keep doing what I have been doing because I kicked butt on this quiz!!!"

The students pretty much nailed it on the head. Their reflections and observations were pretty much what I would have told them.

This whole exercise took less than 10 minutes. Getting the students to reflect on their performance in relation to the outcomes of the course was well worth it.

I am glad our entire math dept. has decided to try out standards based grading. Our students will be better for it.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Standards Based Grading Begins

Last week was our first week with students at Cold Lake HS. Our entire math department has decided we are going to start to make the transition to standards based grading. We started our journey last school year by meeting with assessment specialist Deana Senn. She did an awesome job of helping us to understand Assessment for Learning and Assessment of Learning. We then took the next leap and began looking at the outcomes in our NEW Math 10 Common curriculum. This curriculum is new starting Sept.2010.

We spent approximately 4 months rewriting the curriculum outcomes in student friendly language. The result of our work is this document.

We have broken these outcomes down into units and during each unit we will be exposing our students to the outcomes for that unit. Here is what we gave our students for unit 1 on Radicals and Exponents.

After one week I am preparing to give my first assessment to my students. It is a quiz but has a twist. After the students write the quiz and I grade it the students have a self-assessment rubric to complete. Thanks to Deana Senn for helping me polish up the rubric. The purpose of this rubric is to help the students identify where their weaknesses are and what they need to continue working on. I did not come up with this rubric on my own. I "borrowed" it from Matt Towsley's materials from his summer course on Formative Assessment and Standards Based Grading.

Stay tuned and follow myself and my dept. on our standards based grading journey. Feel free to provide us with some feedback and guidance. We welcome it!!!