Nov 092013

Peg had a very busy Friday at NCTM Las Vegas, giving 3 different presentations in 1 day. The first was for newbies to the NCTM conference, the second was the resource presentation I already posted about, and then there was this presentation entitled: Pedagogical Judgment & Instructional Choices for Building Mathematics Classrooms.

I thought this presentation was the best one of the two I attended, mainly because it allowed the audience to get inside of her head and see what she thinks about. Short answer, she thinks about helping kids succeed. A lot.

That also means she is not thinking about BS like micromanaging homework, parents, etc. She thinks about how to support learners, how to know what they know, and how to demonstrate what they know.

This is going to turn into another “link fest” post because she cited some resources that I need to link to as I go. With good reason. She also could have used another 4 or 5 hours instead of the 1 she had. I would love to sit down with her and spend some time one on one just talking and learning from her.

Point 1: Management of Homework.

She started with a simple question, “Why are you assigning the homework?”

Are you assigning it for practice? Why? Are you assigning it as pre-learning? Why? Are you assigning it for some other reason? Why?

Are you THINKING about the homework you assign? Do you care more about the homework then your learners do? If so, you really need to stop and think about what you are doing.

This conversation immediately put me in the “Rethinking Homework” by Cathy Vatterott discussion that has occurred in my school and department. Other people mentioned Alfie Kohn’s “Rethinking Homework” article and discussion. I am embarrassed to admit I had not read that article, but I have rectified that deficiency.

Here are some quotes / statements on homework by Peg that I captured because they really struck home:

Distributed Practice not focused practice & one topic practice.  Focused practice does not show the long term results in research. [I would love to see and read the research, I am a research junkie.]

Assigning something the learners have never seen before is a way to get them to persevere.

Instead of reviewing, have the learners write the test questions. You will be surprised at how difficult they make the questions.

Turn homework into a way to take possession of their own learning. 1. Teach someone else how to do it. 2. Exeter type presentations

Teach parents to Ask, Don’t Tell. Teach the parents to ask questions instead of trying to help do the math and tell the learners answers.

Point 2: Putting work on your walls

Are you putting the perfect work on your walls? If so, think about what message that says to the rest of the class who are not there yet. If you only celebrate the perfect work, you are devaluing the work of the F, D and C learners. Their work is not important, so it does not count. Is that really the message you want to send?

Public displays of work should create an “Institutional Memory for the reminders of what happened in class.” That is a very different use of displays of work than most teachers do.

Point 3: Assessment

How do the learners inform what you do in the classroom?

At this point, Peg was running out of time and she listed off some resources that are impactful on this discussion.

Dylan Wiliam and Paul Black wrote an important article entitled, “Inside the Black Box”. (another source is Peg strongly recommends reading the thinking about the impacts of the article. A follow up article that should be read as well I think. “Working Inside the Black Box”

Peg also recommended Dylan Wiliam’s “Embedded Formative Assessment”. This is a book I have not read (shocking) and I know is very well regarded in the #MTBoS community.

And then Peg slipped in some gems on assessment, grades and feedback that where pure gold. Seriously, pure 24 caret gold. These are things she has done in her classroom to encourage learners to take ownership of their learning.

Give the homework back to a group, with comments only, no grades, and the comments written for the group on a separate page. The learners have to then go through everyone’s homework and correctly matchup the comments to the correct problem on each person’s homework.

On EVERY CHAPTER Test, Peg required (as in not optional) a correction and reflection. The grade was such, that if a perfect test taker failed to turned the reflection (because there was nothing to correct) they ended up with a 89% on the test.

Yes, that is correct. The reflection & correction was worth 10% of the test grade, and not doing it took you down an entire letter grade.

Again, no grades on the actual test handed back, only comments. They can look online for the grade or speak to you one on one if they want to know the score.

These are ideas I will be implementing.

Finally, somewhere along in the conversation, Peg plugged the PCMI, the Park City Math Institute as one of the absolutely best Professional Development she has ever done. I may have to look into it in a serious way. Especially since it is on my end of the country.

  5 Responses to “Peg Cagle–Pedagogical Judgment & Instructional Choices”

  1. Glenn – so much great information in these 2 posts! I am a book-buying junkie as well, so your post on resources has definitely added at least one book to my list. You should definitely read Embedded Formative Assessment – very thought-provoking and full of research.

    I have a couple of thoughts/pushbacks about homework though: I agree that it needs to be meaningful and intentional. But sometimes it needs to be straight practice for mastery (and retention) of skills, doesn’t it? In Algebra 2, for example, we covered rational exponents and equations containing them last week. The students understood the lesson in class, but how are they going to remember what to do on a problem like that if they don’t practice them repetitively for a bit? The distributed practice idea is excellent – one which I will implement right away! And I love the idea of challenging the students, but my experience is that most of them will not persevere given a problem they are unfamiliar with – when they are at home. I suppose this is a result of their expectation that homework just be practice of the day’s lesson, and could be changed.

    Thanks for sharing all this great information!

  2. Wendy,
    I agree that there is a purpose for homework. I think the big take away here is are we assigning homework with a purpose, or just to give learners something to do.
    Another thing that I will be posting on again is the idea of “Distributed Practice”. That is a phrase that came up in more than one session, and is the homework we are assigning “Distributed Practice” or focused practice.
    I think I need to work more on the distributed practice idea.

  3. On #alg2chat tomorrow night, we’re going to use this post (especially the HW part) as a jumping off point for our chat – hope you can join us! (9 pm EST)

  4. Thanks for the post! I know it got a little fast & furious and am impressed at how much you captured. I would also add the point about intentionally making HW lag behind classroom instruction by an entire week- made classroom instruction less hampered by what I planned to give for HW, but more importantly allowed students time to make sense of material before being asked to do it on their own. Allowed them to use HW as self-assessment in a more genuine way then when I gave same day assignments.

  5. I like that idea too. I missed it the first time. I am sure I know what “distributed practice” is, but I have not actually read the term. You and 2 other presenters mentioned it, so clearly it is something I need to know more about.
    Thank you Peg!

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