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.
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?