During distance learning (DL), I have decided to stop giving tests whose sole purpose was to rank and judge students. Experience has taught me that, no, poor grades do not motivate students; in fact, it usually does the opposite. And typically, my students did not go back over their test to find out what they did wrong. I also found that the comments I wrote don’t help my students move their knowledge forward. Most of my students didn’t look at them. How do I know? Because I have done all of those things in my looong career and finally after years of spending a ton of time doing the same thing and expecting different results, only to be repeatedly let down, I decided to find another way.
My current research interest involves the impact of literacy instruction in the secondary mathematics classroom. In particular, how can formative assessment practices be complemented by focusing on literacy. Fortunately, there is current research (Embedded Formative Assessment, 2018) by Dylan Wiliam that validates my above statements and was used to create my current 3-Read model (http://www.sfusdmath.org/3-read-protocol.html). Early last year, when we were still teaching in person, I created my first Desmos 3-Read graphic organizer for assessment and began to give one every Friday, team tests one week, individual tests the next. As we progressed through the year, I kept using student feedback to improve the system. But in order to improve anything you have to define what you want to accomplish with it. The overarching frame was to move mathematical knowledge forward. In order to accomplish this I first wanted to make sure that every student had access to success on every problem – the proverbial “low floor, high ceiling” activity. I wanted the system to help students refocus from being answer getters to problem solvers. Lastly, I wanted students to have the immediate, non-demoralizing, feedback that research says has meaning to students. At the end of last year I surveyed my students and they overwhelmingly told me that we had succeeded. Then the COVID and DL hit and I had to figure out how to replicate the system in DL. It’s taken quite a bit of help, and a bit of trial and error, but I am really happy with where we are right now. Click here to check it out . Click here to tell me your two stars and a wish. Stay tuned to hear about the results with students.