Improving how students reflect on their math progress has been one of my goals during the past few years. It’s a topic that I’ve been trying to incorporate more in the classroom. That reflection piece in my classroom has changed quite a bit since starting this journey.
Last year students would take an assessment, review their scores and then fill out a reflection sheet. Students filled out the reflection sheet the best that they could. The students and I would review the test and reflection sheet to determine the next steps. Some reflections were spectacular and had a lot of insight, others didn’t. Most of the time the next steps included items like studying more before the test, reviewing a certain concept in more detail, practicing specific skills, or dedicating more time to the subject. I’ll admit that too many of the nexts steps were vague and wouldn’t match the SMART criteria. I was glad students were creating goals and following through. Refinement was needed, but I appreciated that students were lifting up more responsibility for creating their math identities. The students did a fine job following up with the next steps, although this was inconsistently implemented. I’d check-in on goals during the next reflection time.
While reading Make it Stick (I’m on the second renewal from the library), I found something that I’d like to keep in mind for the new year. In chapter five the authors discuss the Dunning-Kruger effect. Research has shown that people (students) sometimes overestimate their own competence. They “… fail to sense a mismatch between their performance and what is desirable, [and] see no need to improve.” As I continued reading I found that lower-performing students were the most “out of touch” in gauging how well they were doing compared to the standard. After reading this I started to think about how students accurately reflect on their math progress.
Students are often asked to compare their work to the criteria for success. The points/letter on the top of graded work is generally perceived in black and white. Students either view themselves as doing great or poor. There’s nothing in the middle. I rarely have a student that says they had an average test. This becomes even more evident when students complete the reflection and goal setting sheets. I’ve had a number of instances where students can’t come up with a goal for themselves. Through probing questions I’m generally able to help students create a goal that is worthwhile, but this doesn’t always happen. I believe math confidence and adopted math identities play a role here. The perception is stuck on the score and it’s challenging to move beyond that number. Maybe it’s because students aren’t as familiar in gauging how they’re performing compared to the standard? I’ve used different methods to encourage students to look at skills compared to points and this has helped, albeit the success using the table has been inconsistent.
The authors of book discussed an experiment where poor performers improved their judgement over time. These students received training specifically on the test concepts before the assessment. That time spent improved their self-reflections and they were more in-line with reality. Basically, the students are better able to show sound judgement during self-reflection if they understand the concepts. Accurate self-reflection becomes an uphill battle if they don’t.
Moving forward I’d like to spend more time discussing error-analysis and misconceptions with the class. When students are aware of how these specifically exist then they’re better able to analyze their performance. Pre-loading that meta-cognition piece is something I want students to keep in mind during the self-reflection process. I think it will deter students from making statements like “I don’t know what goal to make” or “I need to work on everything.” These types of statements are disheartening. I think having exemplars might help instead of just diving in and asking students to reflect. Having a clearer direction and possibly having a reflection time that occurs more frequently could also help. Math isn’t always perceived as a subject where students are asked to create some type of narrative and connect to the text/content. I find that students rise to the challenge when I give them an opportunities to do so. I believe that giving students opportunities to analyze, reflect, and set goals for themselves will empower them to create more accurate math identities.