Thursday, March 24, 2016

Metacognition in the Algebra Classroom

One of my colleagues, Mrs. C, uses Khan Academy's Math Mission has her curricular framework for her Algebra students.  This particular class is a cohort of students who typically struggle with math.

A typical day in her classroom starts with a "Mastery Challenge" that students can work on for about 10 minutes.   Then, she does about 15 minutes of direct instruction surrounding the "Practice Tasks" that they need to work on.  The remainder of class time is spent working on those skills needed to master the Practice Task Blocks.

Mrs. C felt like her class, scheduled at the end of the day, was lacking motivation and wanted to use student self-assessments to recharge her class.  Students were already expected to track their progress through the blocks using a handwritten document.  The document identified the Skill, Level and the students would calculate their points based on what Level they had completed.  After some discussion with Mrs. C, we decided to add "Attempt Tally" to the chart.  Students are now asked to record how many questions they had to answer to get to their current level.

In addition, students are now asked the following reflection questions at the end of the unit:  

1.      Looking at the data above, which blocks were easy to complete? Explain why the block(s) were easy to complete e.g. block was similar to another block, really understood concept of _________.  

2.  Look at the data above, which blocks were difficult to complete? Explain why e.g. block was similar to another but same rule doesn’t apply, I didn’t understand the concept, took me while to apply skill consistently.

These questions are written to get students to think about in which concepts they should feel confident and which concepts still remain a challenge.  Students can approach the summative exam with a strong understanding of their individual Learning Needs.  After taking the summative assessment, the Reflection provides students an opportunity to connect their "Attempt Tally", "Level" to their performance on the test.  Low-achieving Students sometimes need help to see how persistence with a difficult concept can result in success.  

After implementing this intervention, Mrs. C and I had a follow-up conversation to see how to adapt the work.  She liked the reflection questions but thought some of her students could include more detail about the reasoning behind the ease or difficulty of the block.  She is going to continue to work on modeling how to identify Learning Needs with her class.  Also, students in this class need to a little more direction to connect the "Tally Attempts" with their scores because they are not used to associating the two ideas.  Finally, I think it would also be helpful to have a final reflection question after the summative assessment to ask, "What does information mean for my future learning?"  This makes the summative assessment for a math concept turn into a formative assessment for metacognitive skills.

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