Skip to main content

Reflecting on Practice

Once we're done the morning of math (with a brief coffee break) the teachers all get back together for an hour of math education pedagogy. Like the mathematics we cover, each year is something a little different. For example, in previous years we've focused on Lesson Design (with Drs. Nicole Bannister & Gail Burrill), Teaching through Problem Solving or Learning the Open-Ended Approach (with Dr. Akihiko Takahashi).
This year the organizers tried something a little different; they tapped six of the returning participants to look at Questioning in the Classroom from the practicing teachers' perspective. As one of those teachers leading the professional development it was a considerable challenge to not only meet the expectations of the participants and the organizers but also our own expectations -- my colleagues are amongst the premier educators in the States (National Board certified, AP consulants, you name it). We began with a working weekend in Denver in the spring, pulling together resources and a timeline -- our biggest fight was avoiding putting too much in. And then, when actually talking about pedagogy with professional teachers there is a huge struggle against anecdotes; everyone wants to share their stories. In discussing Questioning we want to move beyond what we do now and move towards something better. And so we start with what the research said.
This blog post is only to set the scene for a series of posts; I will go into this at greater depths in the future but our motivation was the results of the 1999 TIMSS video study -- James Hiebert presented the results to us in 2003 at PCMI and it was the most astonishing moment I've had in a lecture in a long time and it has been the prime motivator in my teaching ever since:
Almost all (ed: statistically 100%) of the problems in the U.S. that start out as making connections tasks are transformed, in a variety of ways. Often a teacher steps in and does the work for the students-sees students struggling, gives a hint that takes away the problematic nature of the lesson, and tells students how to solve it. These are not incompetent or poorly intentioned teachers but simply teachers who have picked up very well an American way of teaching mathematics. One of the cultural agreements we have made in this country, with ourselves as teachers and with students, is that it is the teacher's job to tell students how to do the problem and how to get the right answer-that it is not fair to allow students to struggle or be confused.
In other words: we are far too nice. So, for the past six years I have worked hard not to be nice and tried to persuade colleagues near and far to cowboy up1. I've presented on this at OAME directly and in any other presentation that I've done I've pressed the point. It was encouraging to see Dan Meyer come to a similar conclusion in his presentation to open source programmers (yes, the context is a bit bizarre but makes sense if you follow his blog). Be sure you should watch the video.Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
_________
1I include "cowboy up" only because I had to explain the phrase to Gail this year :)

Graph is created from data produced in the TIMSS video study and is from here: http://www.mathforum.com/pcmi/hstp/sum2009/reading/Hiebert_Improving_Math_Teaching_2004b.pdf
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Teacher Professional Development and Microsoft OneNote

During the first three weeks of July, I have the amazing opportunity to work at the Park City Mathematics Institute.  It is, without exaggeration, the best professional development opportunity for teachers of mathematics.  Participants spend three weeks thinking deeply about mathematics and mathematics education.

There are three main aspects of PCMI:

learning mathematicsreflection on practice (RoP)becoming a resource to others.I'm part of the team for RoP and in charge of the third aspect, in which participants consider a gap in professional development back at their home districts and work in small groups to help fill that hole by developing a rich PD seminar on that topic.

It is not easy to develop professional development.  Teachers who haven't written PD have to patiently learn how to write (essentially) lesson plans for someone else.

This year, I used Microsoft OneNote to facilitate the process.  We have a central OneNote Notebook through which I lay out the daily schedule…

Escape Room / BreakOut in OneNote

So when I was visiting Anna in Edinburgh during March Break, she showed me how she used Password-Protected OneNote sections within the OneNote ClassNotebook to help students check their work -- she set the password to the correct answer, so they knew they had it right when the Section opened up.

I figured I could use this for Math Review, so I set aside a couple of hours (turned out to be 3 hours but a fair chunk of that was solution-time) the other night to put an Exam Review together for my Grade 10 Mathematics course.  I pulled together as many multiple choice questions and short answer questions on the topics as I could Google and tried to balance each Section with a mix of topics and then threw in a couple of pop-culture questions, too.  The students worked on the problems in each section and used the answers as passwords to unlock the next section until they got to the Prize section.
Result?  Near total continual engagement for the 60 minutes class! Across three classes!  They lo…

Desmos, OneNote & Replay

So using Desmos activities are a great way to encourage exploration and discussion in math class -- if you haven't tried them, I encourage it.  They're collected at https://teacher.desmos.com/ 

But ... Desmos doesn't give you quite enough.  It doesn't have a way of capturing the work that the student does within their space, and it doesn't allow for annotation of class contributions as we come together to discuss.  Well, not surprisingly, OneNote comes to the rescue. 
Using the Windows shortcut Windows-Shift-S it is really quick to snag the Desmos screen and pop it into a waiting OneNote page.  From there, we can grab our pen and (using wireless projection) talk about what all the different responses mean and where to go from there.
(An aside : one of the nice features of Desmos activities are the way you can hit PAUSE and it will pause all the screens of the students working.  I always give them a heads up "10 seconds to pause..." and it's refreshing…