Thursday, December 15, 2011

Semester Reflections

As I sit and watch my students working diligently on their semester
final, I am so grateful that winter break is upon us. It has been a
whorlwind of a semester, filled with new challenges, new triumphs, new
frustrations, and a huge lack of time to sit and write about it.

One of my biggest challenges at the start of the year was how to
manage 130 kids in AP Stat. If you've never looked at the AP
Curriculum, it's very writing intensive and conceptual - not your
run-of-the-mill right/wrong math class. It has worked out fairly
well, and while I am not able to grade assessments as quickly as I
would like, I have amazing students and they have really shined this
year. Part of how I've managed is by two things - active learning and
standards based grading. Over the past few years, I have transitioned
more and more away from lecturing and this year is even more so.
Since AP Stat is my only major prep, I have really put a lot of time
into developing quality lessons, making connections, and tying things
together this year. In class, the *kids* are the ones working their
tails off. They sit in partners, so they have someone to turn to when
they are stuck. They work with their partners on a daily basis while
discussing and working problems. The problems that in the past I
might have assigned as "homework" get worked in class instead. They
do not sit and watch me work problems and do examples - THEY tackle
the problems, work through it with their partner, then we discuss it
as a class. Overall, this has led to high engagement, which has shown
up in their assssments.

The second thing that I tackled this year was using Standards Based
Grading in my AP class. I had started this journey last year with
Algebra 2, and at the time, had no idea how it would work in AP.
While it's still a learning process, overall I do really like having
the more detailed information about student's understanding of each
concept. There are still some kinks to be worked out, like the crowd
of people in my room this week for reassessments, but the pros far
outweigh the cons. The kids have embraced SBG with open arms and over
time have seen the benefit of having to remediate and reassess, of
having detailed grade reporting, and learning from their mistakes. I
have heard the statement, "I wish Mrs/Mr X did SBG too!", many, many
times over this semester. There definitely have been challenges to
SBG though... writing assessments that really get to the heart of the
objective, writing reassessments that cover the same concept without
being identical to the original, the time it takes just to grade that
volume of papers, etc. But overall, I'm happy with how this semester
has turned out.

As I reflect back over the past year and a half, I realize how
different I am now as compared to when I started this journey. My
philosphy on what really matters, what grades should mean, how to
structure my class, so many things. I was one of those teacher that
would have sworn "if you don't grade it, they won't do it" and now I
see how wrong I was on a daily basis. My kids work their butts off
every day and it's NOT about how many grades I take - it's about being
engaged with the material and tapping into their intrinsic motivation
to learn. It's not always been a smooth path, but this was a journey
well worth the time and energy it took to get where I am today.


Anonymous said...

This is so heartwarming and inspiring!

I'm just finishing my first semester too, of my second year of SBG in (regular) stats, and have similar experiences, though I bet you've done better. I bow down before you in awe over having 130 kids in AP stat!

I think my favorite this Fall is the semester Census project and how it fit into SBG. I'll blog about it if I get the energy. At the moment, entropy is winning out...

Nic said...

It's great to hear how you enjoy teaching Stats. I think it is a wonderful subject to teach, as it is intrinsically applied and meaningful.
I have taught College stats, particularly introduction to quant methods to students who don't want to take it. I have developed a Mastery Learning system where they have to get 80% in a test to move on. It means they build on strong foundations.
I'm planning to start a blog about learning and teaching statistics and Operations Research. It would have ideas and helps for teachers and learners alike.
You can see some of my work on Youtube.
is a new video about levels of measurement. You might like to use it in your teaching. "Understanding the p-value" is remarkably popular as well.
I have recently launched an iPad app: AtMyPace: Statistics, and we hope to have it on iPod as well by the end of January.
I'd love to hear what you think, and whether it would be appropriate for an AP stats class.

Anonymous said...

I teach this way in middle school and have recently finished my Master's in Statistics at CSU. I'll start teaching my first statistics course this spring at a 2 year college part time. I want to integrate my teaching methods from my undergrdate degree in the college setting (seemingly very similar to yours), but I'm not sure how they will be accepted at the higher education level where most all teachers lecture in math courses. Wish me luck.

miss.calcul8 said...

I'm glad it's going well for you. I was reading your posts from this summer about SBG and I was overwhelmed for you! lol I guess I'm still not to the point where it makes sense to my brain. I just can't figure out how to make it work.