Sunday, June 28, 2015

Brain Dump - Thinking about Assessment...

Warning:  This post may ramble a bit.. I needed to do a brain dump to organize my thoughts :)

For the past five years, I've been concerned about assessment in my classroom.  In the summer of 2010, the MTBoS really helped me with transitioning to Standards Based Grading and in general, I haven't tweaked that process much over the years since because I've been pretty happy with my system.  However, I still have concerns about student retention, so in more recent years, I've been focused on formative assessment and making thinking visible, but I'm really excited to see how the changes that I'm mulling over for this year will impact student learning.

The Background

At the AP Reading a few weeks back, Daren Starnes (one of the authors of The Practice of Statistics), gave a Best Practices talk on student learning and referenced the book Make It Stick by Peter Brown, calling it one of the most influential books of his career.  Two other Best Practices talks referenced assessment - one was about Multiple Choice Mondays and the other, by Adam Yankay and Jared Derksen, referenced Standards Based Grading.  

When I Got Home:
After spending over a week with 800 of my closest statistics friends, I was really interested in doing more research on the assessment practices shared during the week.  During my research, I ran across a Global Math Department (GMD) talk by Adam Yankay that also referenced Make It Stick, so I knew that book had to join my library ASAP.  I quickly downloaded the Kindle version and set up a plan with my Twitter Book Club pals to keep me accountable.  (If you would like to join us, check out #EduRead on twitter)  

My Tentative Plan:
I think the major shift for me will be restructuring my first and last 5 minutes of class.  In Make It Stick, one of the key items is about retrieval and how that ties in to retention.  The use of quizzes to practice retrieval has been shown in several research studies, which is part of Adam's discussion above.  Also, in the book Accessible Mathematics, Steve Leinwand encourages daily skills check/quizzes in the first 5 minutes, with the argument that 5 minutes x 180 days of instruction = 900 minutes or 15 hours of gained instruction of basic skills.  With all of that said, here's my thought:
  • Multiple Choice Mondays - I really like the idea of an organized structure that my students can expect.  With MC Mondays, they would have 5 questions that spiral through the curriculum, which would be part of the "interleaving" mentioned in Make It Stick.  I'm not sure yet if I want these to be individual, pairs, or groups.  I like group MC because of the good conversations that occur.  In the Best Practices talk, the speaker mentioned that she usually puts one of these questions on the weekly quiz as well.
  • Weekly Skills Check - This idea is mainly from Adam's talk and would consist of right vs wrong, "Level 1" retention questions.  The goal would be to automate some of the basic skills so that students have a stronger knowledge base on which to build.  These would be questions like identifying the sampling method, which confidence interval to use, interpretation of r^2, writing a regression line from computer output, etc.  This would also spiral throughout the curriculum, which again promotes retention.
  • Exit Tickets - I've used exit tickets (and other formative assessments) on a regular basis, but usually my exit tickets were more reflective in nature.  I'm thinking that these need to be more skills-check-type assessments over that day's lesson just to see how well students grasped the big ideas of the day. 
These aren't huge ideas nor are they major instructional shifts, but I'm really thinking that they could pack a big bang over the course of the year.  

What are strategies you use to promote retention in your classes?  What would you add to the above thoughts?

6 comments: said...

This is awesome. I love all of these ideas!

Sherrie Nackel said...

Great post. I'm interested in hearing more about Multiple Choice Mondays. I love the concept of the spiral review. Does it have to be 5 multiple choice questions? It would seem so it it's MC Monday. LOL The feedback I got from some of my end of the year student surveys was that they did not like the warm-ups we did this year. I would like to have a theme every day and see how that goes.

Elissa Miller said...

You know I am always talking about my love for mental math mondays. I think I will do it forever! It's all middle school skills but I think it's a great refresher and students even asked if I would make a little formula sheet to help them remember how to do stuff. I think mostly because it made them feel dumb to not be able to do middle school math even though they remembered learning it. Maybe that's not the best motivator but almost all of them mentioned that activity as the one that helped them improve the most, mainly because they could only rely on their brains.

Anna Blinstein said...

Thanks for sharing. I wonder how the ideas in "Make It Stick" interplay with the idea of lagging homework advocated by Henri Picciotto at Is it most beneficial to practice the ideas/skills from that day's lesson or make connections between that day's lesson and previous topics or spiral practice from previous lessons? I'm going to be playing around with all of these different variations this year to find a balance that I think works the best, but wondering if you have any ideas about this now that you've read the "Make It Stick" book (which I should probably read at some point...).

Amy Hogan said...

I, too, want to revisit assessment. I definitely would like to do more formative multiple choice practice. I loved the Mutliple-Choice Monday idea. My only concern is that I don't want to inundate with assessment.

Mr. Kieron Boyle said...

Enjoy reading through your posts. I am going to be teaching AP Stats for the first time this year and trying to take in as many suggestions, trick of the trade, etc. to hopefully help my students to be successful on the AP Exam.

Mr. Kieron Boyle
Edgewood HS, Trenton, OH