Two of my classes took assessments this week. These are considered unit assessments and are related to math skills that the class has been working on over the past 1-2 months. My fourth grade class just finished up a fraction unit, while fifth graders ended a unit on equations. I tend to grade the tests and then pass them back in the next day or two. Seeing that it takes so much class time to give these tests (and the grading) I want students to be able to use these assessments. By using them, I mean that students should be able to look at them with formative lens and purposefully reflect on the results. Usually the assessment process looks like this:
- Assessments are passed back to students
- Students review their score and are excited or disappointed
- Students try to figure out how everyone else did
- Teacher reviews the assessment solutions with the class
- Students ask questions about why or maybe how they can get additional credit
- Students see where fixable mistakes exist
- Students receive their math journals
- Students fill out a reflection sheet looking at skill strengths and areas to improve
- Students indicate the most memorable activity and why
- The teacher and student meet and sign-off on the test analysis and reflection portion
Okay, so stages 1-3 have been happening in my classroom for the past seven or so years. It’s become part of my classroom’s math routine. I see benefits in having students reflect on their progress on assessments, but I also want students to look at an assessment beyond the grade itself. I’ve blogged about this evolution before. I stopped putting actual letter grades on assessments because of this. I also considered taking off the point totals as well, but ended up keeping them since it was on the grade report anyway.
I see value in the student reflection component. I believe students feel empowered when they’re given more control, choice, and access in the classroom. This year I’ve added my own stage 4. I’ve added this for a couple different reasons. One, I’ve noticed that students that don’t necessarily meet their own expectations are really hard on themselves. They often react negatively on the reflection component and I don’t want students to feel worse after reflecting on their performance. I want this to be a valuable experience and growth opportunity. Two, my students have kept their math journal for multiple years. Some of them are jam packed with notes, reflections, and foldables. You’d be surprised at how much is in some of these journals. One thing that students continually tell me is that they love going back in their journal and looking at what they completed over the past few years. They see that their mathematical writing has changed as well as the concepts that they’ve encountered. It’s similar to a math yearbook to many of my students. My third reason is that I’ve always been interested in how students perceive themselves as math students. Over the years, I’ve emphasized that creating an individual math identity is important. I emphasize this at my school’s back to school session. This math identity shouldn’t come from a parent, but instilled within. Being able to see students for multiple years allows me more of an opportunity to do this. Also, I’m excited to share this at NCTM and learn with other educators about the goal setting and monitoring process. This has been an area of growth for me as I’m continually refining the student math reflection process.
So, here’s stage four:
- Students review and rate their perceived effort level and attention to detail
- Students provide an example of where their effort level increased
- Students create a math goal that will be achieved by the end of the year
- Student indicate how they know that the goal will be met
- The teacher and student sign-off on the reflection sheet
Don’t get me wrong, this type of reflection is time consuming. Whenever I discuss this process with other teachers I get quite a few questions about how to find the time. Meeting 1:1 with kids to discuss their goal takes time and usually the other students are in stations or working on something independently. I can usually finish up meeting with the kids over 1-2 classes. Instruction still occurs during this time, it’s just not a whole-group model.
I’ve attempted many strategies to move kids away from comparing their score with others. One strategy that seemed to work well was to have students go to stations and then I passed out the assessments. I realized later that they just compared the results when they left the classroom. I want to shift the paradigm to more of an individual growth model. It’s a challenge. Through the years, I believe progress has been made in this, but more needs to be done.
The student math goals are interesting. I had to have a brief mini lesson on the topic of math goal setting as many students wanted to initially make a goal of “getting everything right on the next test.” I think many students were more interested in thinking of what their parents wanted and not necessarily a specific goal for themselves. Keep in mind these are 3-5th graders. After a few different attempts, students started to make goals that were more skill focused. Some students are now writing goals about “becoming better a dividing fractions”, “divide decimals accurately”, “become better at solving for x with one-step equations.” While conferring with the kids I’m reminding them that the goals need to be measurable.
After the assessment students review their math journals and monitor whether they’ve met their goal or not. If not, they write down why or possibly change their goal. I’ll then meet with the student and sign-off on the goal. My next step is to involve parents in the goal and have a more frequent monitoring process.