Reflecting on daily learning

Over the last few years, there has been a shift in my mathematics classroom from passive learning to active learning. In the past, students in my classes would have spent a lesson filling in a worksheet and then had time to practice the skill of the day. Students could sit back and wait for the teacher to give them the answers. The result on an assessment (usually a test) would reflect how much information they retained from the unit. As mentioned in my previous post, more recently, I have shifted my teaching practice to be more active. This has involved using VNPS and more student input throughout the lesson. This shift also created more opportunity for teacher feedback on the learning in the moment as it was happening.

When I began my Cohort21 journey, my focus was on documenting the student work at the whiteboards. Following the second F2F session, my driving question was "HMW document student learning in a mathematics classroom?" I was looking for a way for students to have a record of the questions they solved in class on the boards to help in their learning. I have attempted to use a Google Form with DocAppender and have found some success. Students were asked to take a photo of the work and answer a few questions (what unit is this from? on a scale from 1 - 10, how confident are you in this skill? what do you need to do to further improve these skills?) By using DocAppender, students have a record of this information. The feedback from students has been positive but I still feel like something is missing.

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Over the last few weeks, my focus has shifted slightly. My MHF4U class is getting ready to write their final exam next week. Yes, exams are stressful. However, I'm starting to identify a disconnect between the student's knowledge of the concepts and mistakes they make (they have more of a focus on the final answer and not on the process of the question). This is making me think that I may not want students to document what they have done at the boards but how to get students to better track what they currently know and how do they get better - without focusing on the final answer.

So with this in mind, my new iteration of my HMW has become "HMW have students reflect on their learning in a lesson to help personalized their next steps?" I believe I will continue to use the Google Form to track their learning. I will also continue to end each lesson with having students identify "I can..." statements. However, my work now turns to how do I embed more meaningful personalized reflection for students on daily learning?

8 thoughts on “Reflecting on daily learning

  1. I love the progression of your HMW question! This practice of reflection and self-awareness is a huge step in students having more ownership in their learning and confidence in the fact that the can advocate for what they need to focus on next. The fact that your students end each class with an "I can" statement is so empowering and ensures that no matter what level of math mastery the student has, they can end class feeling positive about something they have achieved. Perhaps there is a way for them to every few classes look at their "I can" statements and compare them to the learning goals. They could perhaps see what is missing from their statements and chose one as a targetted goal. The goal to get your students to reflect in different ways on their learning is awesome- it connects to your previous post 100%. By providing opportunities to reflect, it is not just about what the students can remember- but what have they learned!

  2. Dear Jen,

    I can't help but be impressed by the evolution of your thinking for your How Might We question. It is aligns with a lot of others in the Cohort this year (and in the past) about how to focus on process not product, on reflection and not just ability. This is a powerful switch in approach.

    We are seeing some success with Math journals - these are physical ('beta') books that students write in, doodle in, and solve problems in. Also, Doc Appender has some great potential as well.

    But I think the key point here is that we assess what we value and students value what is assessed. How might a change in assessment practices change student approaches?

    Thanks and looking foward to seeing you on Friday!

    1. Post author

      Hi Garth,
      Thanks for the feedback. What really struck me about your comments, and has had me thinking since, focusses around how do students learn to reflect? For many other teaching practices, we model what we want students to do and show them how. But what does that look like for reflecting? If I want students to reflect on their learning, should the teacher be more of a coach in this process as opposed to modelling the process of reflecting?
      Looking forward to Friday and seeing where this journey takes me next.

  3. @jgravel I enjoyed reading your post as I'm also considering how to strengthen my students' reflection skills on their daily learning. Like you, I want my students to be able to identify their strengths and areas of need so they can take action on these. I find the action part is the most difficult for them. My students read and accept feedback, but often are not acting or incorporating the feedback. In essence, they're being passive recipients. I want to change this and encourage them to be more active in the process.
    I was also interested in your post because of your use of VNPS. I teach Grade 3 and as we use whiteboards to document our thinking to math problems as well. I have been thinking about how to record this work and use it for the purpose of reflection, so I'm interested in hearing more of how this goes for you in the future!

  4. I completely agree with Tracy and Garth, Jen. The development of your HMW question really seems to get at the crux of the issue! I am wondering if you have had a conversation with your students about the disconnect you have noticed? I wonder if they would have some suggestions for how to ensure that they are aware of the required for solving a particular problem, determining their proficiency with each of these skills and how they might get help with these smaller steps if necessary. This seems like powerful work you are doing! Can't wait t learn more on Friday.

  5. @jgravel I would echo what @ljensen brought up above. Bring your students into this conversation. Share with the the tension you feel between wanting them to "have" a copy of their thinking to review and reflect on but not seeing it live out in their answer (same mistakes made).

    To quote you "they have more of a focus on the final answer and not on the process of the question".

    How do they suggest they might recalibrate?

    What kind of assessment would help shift this culture ?

    This is not easy work and is a VERY worthy action plan. I love the ideas and questions you are wrestling with here.

    Looping in your coaches: @nblair @mmoore @mbrims @ljensen

    And alumni and math teacher guru @lmiller to help add some more ideas here.

  6. Marc Brims

    Jen - your title says it all!
    Although it is assumed that students learn daily in each of their lessons, we know that this is not always the case (particularly when rote "learning" is the pedagogy employed in a math classroom).
    You have made excellent strides to track and encourage a focus on assessment as and for learning in your math class by leveraging Doc Appender and Google Forms. This is amazing!
    "Feeling like something is missing" is a natural part of the process when re-configuring pedagogy. As others have commented, the more you involve your students in the continued development of the learning process, the more likely things will crystallize. Looking forward to learning more from you on Friday!

  7. Jen -

    My wife (also a math teacher) has just started to use VNPS in her classroom and is struggling with the same issues you have. Her student engagement has improved immensely, but documentation is a problem. I'm also hesitant to use them in higher grades, but know I shouldn't be. Do you use this with your MHF4U class as well? Looking forward to chatting with you tomorrow to discuss our questions.

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