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Learning Journey #5
*February 28, 2014*

*Posted by jennienorgaard in Learning Journey.*

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After listening to the presentation from the Ministry of Education I learned a bunch of new things such as the plan for growth that they are planning at the moment. This includes things from: reducing the graduation gap between First Nations and Métis students and their non-Aboriginal peers by 50% in 2020, increasing the number of grade three students reading level by 20% so that they are “at level”, and a plan for an increase in the graduation rate of students. These are all great goals and things that definitely need to start happening soon. Especially since so many students going into high school or any grade for that matter are simply getting pushed through the system even though they below reading grade level and so on. I personally don’t think that students should be getting pushed through the system like they are. By pushing them through they are not learning anything and you are technically putting them in a deeper hole then where they first started. How are we allowing students to be successful by allowing them to be pushed through? I believe this because as you progress through each grade in school things start to get more difficult. So if your students are having trouble being successful in the previous grades, what is going to change for them when they are just getting pushed through the school system? What are they learning if any from being pushed through? Why are supports not being provided to these students to try and help them succeed instead of just pushing them through? How is this preparing students for University or College and the real world outside of school? To me this is just setting the students up for failure later on in life. It is also saying to the students that it is okay to not understand certain things and that you don’t necessarily have to learn it. I believe it is issues like this that students begin to have a terrible attitude towards school and their own learning. Due to this there is a fewer amount of students attending colleges and universities. Not only are they not going to universities and colleges but also it is making it more difficult for these students to get involved in the work force.

Apart from this plan for growth, there were some controversial ideas that were talked about as well. Things such as the idea that if you wanted to get into the Faculty of Engineering and you were a high school student from Saskatchewan you needed a 92% average. If you were a high school student from Alberta you only needed an 85% in order to get accepted into this faculty. How is this fair at all? How can things be changed so that things like this don’t continue to happen? Are schools in Alberta that much better academically?

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Assessment
*February 24, 2014*

*Posted by jennienorgaard in EMTH 350.*

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From my own high school experience I cannot say that I have experienced many different forms of assessment especially through mathematics. The only form of assessment we had for mathematics was the traditional paper and pencil exams and quizzes, to the occasional homework checks. Most of our assessments were based on the many unit exams we had and the weekly hand-in assignments we were assigned. Apart from mathematics I cannot say that I did experience a variety of assessment forms to begin with. We had the odd journal writing, oral reports and presentations for big projects and things like heritage fair, to some self and peer assessment. It wasn’t until university when I first encountered entrance and exit slips, open-ended questioning, rating scales and rubrics, to reflective prompts.

Through my own research on oral reports and presentations I learned a few things about this form of assessment that I didn’t know. I always thought these had to be in the form of a speech or paper, but learned through my research that it can also be incorporated through audio-visual aids such as: posters, slides, movies, models, or other demonstrations. Before this research process I had never thought oral reports and presentations could be done in a mathematics classroom. However, now that I think about it, if it were utilized in the correct way it could indeed be beneficial to consider. In a math class oral reports could be used to inform the teacher on what their students already know, what they didn’t understand about a unit, what they liked about the unit, what they didn’t like, to what they wish they would have learned. From these reports teachers can also learn how well they taught a unit, what they need to change for next time and what their students are still struggling with after the unit. Now that I think about it, I think an oral report or presentation can be more beneficial at times to use instead of an exam or test as not all students excel at writing exams. This way it allows the students to critically think about what they have learned in the class, what they wished they would have learned, and things like what they are still struggling with, instead of trying to regurgitate everything that they memorized the night before for an exam that takes anywhere from half an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes. This form of assessment strategy also allows students to explain what they know in a paper if they cannot explain it in mathematical language. These are some of the advantages I found for this assessment strategy through my research, but like anything there are always disadvantages to things as well. Some disadvantages for this assessment form in a math class could be the idea that not all students are good at explaining in depth what they have learned in a paper as opposed to a conversation, and it may be difficult for some students to reflect on their learning in a paper for a math class.

From listening to other assessment strategies I learned that open-ended questioning is a form of assessment that has a variety of ways to answer and not just one correct answer. This is a great way for students to explain how they arrived at their final answer and why they chose to do their question in this manner. This form of assessment allows for students to represent their own learning and ideas in whatever way they want. There is no correct way in how you are suppose to answer or go about answering a question which allows for more students to willingly share their thoughts and ideas as they are not afraid since there is no one correct answer. This form of assessment allows students to share their ideas and thoughts more frequently in the lesson and it allows for students to make different connections to create a deeper understanding for themselves and their peers. I think this would be a great form of assessment to use at the beginning of the year to see exactly where your students are at and what they know. Just like anything there is also disadvantages to this form of assessment as well. Another assessment strategy I learned about in our sharing activity was anecdotal notes and checklists. The purpose of this assessment strategy is to provide information about the student’s development over an extended period of time. This form of assessment also allows teachers to identify the instructional needs of their students and it is a form of assessment ** for** learning. This strategy can be used at any time to record all and any observations of our students. Anecdotal notes and very focused and brief. They also provide a very accurate description of the situation and comments or questions that may be a guide for further observations. This form of assessment provides information such as the strengths and weaknesses of our students, which can help educators change or focus their lessons on certain areas. In order to develop a complete profile for students’ language abilities, interests and attitudes it is important to comment and record during different times and during different activities throughout the day. Although I learned a lot about anecdotal notes and records, I cannot fully say I understand how to utilize this assessment process. It is still a bit confusing and uncertain to me in some areas.

I think it is important to incorporate a variety of forms of assessment in a classroom as not all students excel at the same thing. By this I mean that some students may be able to demonstrate what they learned more accurately if teachers provide them with a variety of ways to do so. As teachers we also can’t assess our students accurately and fairly if we do not provide all of them with the same opportunity to express and demonstrate all that they have learned in whatever way is most beneficial for them. I think it is our jobs as educators to find the way that is most beneficial for our students to demonstrate their learning as in the end it is all for them anyways.

These different forms of assessment connect to assessment* for* learning in the sense that they are all a way of determining the progress our students are making during and throughout a unit. From these different forms of assessment teachers can identify different areas of their classroom in which they should change in order to benefit their students more and of course through these assessment strategies students are given valuable feedback on their own learning. These are all also a form of assessment *of* learning in the sense that all of these forms measure and record students learning levels in some way. Lastly, these are also a form of assessment* as* learning as they all give students an equal opportunity to further their own learning through the feedback they are given. Through these different assessment strategies students are given an opportunity to set their own personal goals and determine what they would like to work on and do better on for next time. In general, all these different forms of assessment are a great guide to help students understand what they are doing well and what they can improve on. In the end it is all about helping students learn all that they can in the best way that suits them so as educators we need to utilize a variety of different assessment forms along with all the different instructional strategies we are encouraged to implement. There are so many different assessment strategies out there for the simple reason that we all learn and understand things in different ways so we should take advantage of this as much as we can!

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Learning Journey #4
*February 21, 2014*

*Posted by jennienorgaard in Learning Journey.*

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After reading this textbook, it emphasizes the importance it is to involve your students and their parents in all possible ways in your class. Not only involving your parents and students in the classroom but also encouraging students to go home and share what they are learning with their parents. This included everything from the assessment process, providing the students with feedback, having “open house” events at school for the parents to come and watch, to the evaluating and reporting process of the students in the end as well. Before this class I knew that it was important to get the parents involved in what it was their children were learning in school, but I didn’t realize that it was necessary in getting the parents involved with the evaluating and reporting process of their children as well. I actually didn’t think that was even possible to do prior to reading this textbook. After reading this textbook it all makes sense why we would involve the parents and students in everything that we can in and through their learning journey. This way there will be no surprises or upsets with the final grades of the students learning. When the parents are involved through this whole process they can help their children do better in school and the parents can become a part of their children’s learning journey. It is also important that parents are involved in their children’s learning so if there is any misunderstanding or disagreements with students’ grades, parents and teachers can talk about it right from the beginning and not when the marks are already submitted. I realize the importance it is to involve parents in their chid’s learning journey as they can help out teachers at home when teachers are not there and available. Parents can work at home with their child on their learning if they know where their child is at and what they are trying to reach in the end.

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Chapter Ten – Evaluating and Reporting
*February 13, 2014*

*Posted by jennienorgaard in ECS 410.*

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This chapter states that, “Evaluation and reporting occur at the point in the classroom assessment cycle when the learning pauses, and the evidence is organized and evaluated by comparing it to what students needed to learn.” (p.93) From here, the results of the evaluation are usually shared through reports and final grades. This chapter talks about how evaluating and reporting are clearly the last and final step of the assessment process but it is crucial that these steps start earlier on throughout the learning journey of our learners. This chapter talks about how “evaluating and reporting require professional judgment in response to the following four issues: 1) What does the student know, what is she or he able to do, and what can she or he articulate? 2) What areas require further attention or development? 3) In what ways can the student’s learning be supported? 4) How is the student progressing in relation to the standards or development for students in a similar age range?” (p.93) This chapter talks about how evaluating is not done by only the teacher, instead it requires the role of the students and parents as well.

“Reporting is an ongoing process that should involve students, parents and teachers in examining and making sense of a student’s learning.” (p.96) This means that every time a student talks to their parents, peers, or teachers about what they are learning and doing in school they are reporting. It is important to involve your students in the reporting as a teacher so that they can go home and explain the reports and their grades to their parents in the end. This way there is no surprises or upsets at the ends towards what the students overall mark/grade is. Apart from keeping in contact with your students it is also as important to keep in touch with the parents with the students’ work and learning process. As important as it is to grade your students as a teacher it is just as important to keep students and their parents involved with the daily schoolwork occurring in you class. This way the students and parents understand the final grades you give your students and there are no surprises and upsets. In the end, it is just as important to involve your students and their parents in the evaluating and reporting process.

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Chapter Nine – Communicating About Learning
*February 13, 2014*

*Posted by jennienorgaard in ECS 410.*

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This chapter talks about the importance it is to communicate with our students/children to learn what they are learning in and through school. One way to communicate is through involving students with others about their learning, and then they start to understand what they have learned, what they need to learn, and the different kinds of supports that are available to them. “This teaches them to self-monitor – an essential skill for self-directed, independent, lifelong learners.” (p.86) This chapter talks about the two key components to successful communication through learning, which include students collecting and demonstrating their learning and then the audiences providing these learners with feedback. This chapter talks about the idea that when learners “have a specific audience it helps the learners focus the presentation, making it more purposeful and more likely to inform.” (p.86) Apart from this it is also important to ask the audience for both positive and negative feedback regarding the learners’ presentations. “Even with the best intentions, mistakes are made. We need to know what is working and what is not so that we can continue to improve on our learning path.” (p.91)

Through the classes I am currently taking we usually communicate our learning with others by creating short presentations in which the class takes part. From these presentations we usually have peer observers as well as the professor observing, taking notes and marking us at the back. By doing our presentations this way we get feedback from both our audience/peers, and our instructors. I believe this is an essential way of demonstrating our learning in the class but I also think it is as important that we have our instructor and peer evaluating and observing us as well. This way you get feedback from your peers, which at times can be more beneficial than from your instructor. I also believe that it is important to get feedback from more than once source as you will get different perspectives of what you can do differently next time and what went well.

So in general, I believe that it is important to not only communicate with your learners as a teacher but it is also important to allow you learners to demonstrate their learning throughout your class. This way the learners can get feedback from their audience and not just from their teachers. Like I said earlier, it is essential to get as many perspectives in on a students learning journey as possible as they can begin to see what they are doing well and what they need to change or improve for next time. I think it is important that we allow our peers to assess our learning as well as our teachers as some learners may find the feedback/responses from our peers more beneficial than that of our teachers.

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Inquiry-Based Teaching
*February 12, 2014*

*Posted by jennienorgaard in EMTH 350.*

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The first time we experienced an inquiry-based lesson in EMTH 350 was when Kathy gave us the lesson on circles. She brought up the idea with a problem she had with finding certain angles on her bicycle wheel. From there we worked on an activity where we, the students, came up with the concepts of the circle. We discussed amongst our groups while trying to answer the questions provided to us on the worksheets. This was the very first time we learned/experienced an inquiry lesson. From here, we learned more about inquiry lessons throughout our required readings in the textbooks, the different articles we had to read, the activities we did in class and the Teaching Mathematics Through Inquiry (TMTI) assignment we have been working on with our partners for the last couple weeks. Apart from this, I found that when we watched our videos of our own inquiry lessons that we presented to the class and critiqued our lessons it helped me to get a deeper understanding of the significance of the project. After the lesson I thought it had went well apart from the fact that we thought we were out of time and didn’t get to end our lesson like we had originally planned. However, after watching the video of it, I started to pick out things that could have been done differently to improve the lesson even more. Not only did I notice things that could have been done differently in my lesson after watching it, but it also states the importance it is to do this in the article, *Understanding change through a high school mathematics teacher’s journey. *This article states, “Schön (1983) suggest that teachers could orchestrate their own change if they are helped to develop a ‘stance’ of looking at their own practice by analyzing, adapting, and always challenging their assumptions, in a self-sustaining cycle of reflection on their own theory and practice, learning from one problem to inform the next problem. Reflection enables practitioners to assess, understand, and learn through their experiences.” (p. 3) By doing this, this ensures that the future lessons you make on the same topic are that much better! From the article, we learn that inquiry is “learner-focused, question driven, investigation/research, communication, reflection, and collaboration.” (p.4) Through this article, we learn that inquiry lessons brought a different idea of what Brea’s role as a teacher really was. It talks about how she “transformed her classroom discourse by listening to students differently, as described in her story. She began to give voice to, or recognize the voice of, students, thus empowering them. She shifted her concern from being the expert voice to a concern for the authenticity of students’ voice. (p.11) From here we begin to understand that inquiry based teaching is all about student based learning and helping students connect with mathematics in a deeper way. This way students are not just memorizing concepts/ ideas and just regurgitating information on exams to do well in school. They actually start to understand the concepts and can transfer this new knowledge outside of the math classroom.

After reading this article, I still strongly believe that the way a teacher presents a lesson is based strongly on his or her own mathematical beliefs. These mathematical beliefs are strongly influenced by the different math experiences one encounters in their life. For example, you are going to teach lessons based on how you learned the different concepts and what you enjoyed about math in and through school. Teachers normally won’t attempt to teach a subject in a way that they could not learn the material themselves when they were the students. Usually whichever method gets your point across the quickest and in the simplest way is what we strive for. My beliefs about mathematics teaching and learning are still the same as I stated that, it is important to understand how to properly do mathematics and not just know how to come up with the final answer. However, I did state that “so in the end, how we decide to go about teaching the material is ultimately up us and what our mathematical beliefs are.” which I kind of disagree with after reading this article. To an extent yes, we will be teaching what we want and based on our mathematical beliefs but ultimately it is important to teach to the students and not what we believe. This is crucial as we are there to help the learning of our students and not preach what we believe and agree with in mathematics. It is important to keep in mind what our own thoughts are about mathematics but I think it is more important that we teach to ensure our students are learning and understanding the concepts regardless if how we have to teach the content is not how we perceive math to be taught/learned. So in the end, my beliefs on mathematics teaching and learning are generally the same after reading this article. However, there are some key points I would add into my original thoughts on mathematics teaching and learning.

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Chapter Eight – Collecting, Organizing, and Presenting Evidence
*February 6, 2014*

*Posted by jennienorgaard in ECS 410.*

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This chapter talks about how the students need to be involved in assessing their own learning. In order to do this, students must also be responsible for collecting, organizing and presenting evidence of their learning. By providing this information students can then start to understand when they are actually learning and succeeding. Students need to have a collection of evidence, as it becomes a visual to their learning over time. This ensures all students have a fair and balanced form of assessment. This chapter talks about how to make this process work by including the four key components to help support student learning in your classroom. These four keys are: keep the process simple, involve students, help students and parents value the evidence and reconsider evidence collections.

I think it is important that students are involved with their own learning. If students are to collect, organize and present evidence of their learning they are actually comprehending what they are learning and not just memorizing concepts and ideas for exams. This is important, as each individual student will be able to see how much he or she has learned in a semester from this process. I think this is a great way of assessing students as the parents can also start to understand what their students are learning in school as their child can see how much learning they are actually achieving throughout this process. From this process, the students can also pick out their best piece of work that they did over time and then they can talk to different people about this new learning they are doing. This way students can also take their learning outside of the classroom as well since they can explain to their peers and parents everything that they are learning. This process also allows parents, teachers and the students themselves to see how much the students actually learned over the semester. Not only are students learning more through this process, but the students are also getting better grades in the end. Students are not being graded on their individual assignments, instead the teacher can inform the students on what areas of this process needs more improving on and the areas in which the students are excelling at. In the end, I believe that this way of doing things may take more time, but it also benefits the students more. They start to actually see what they have learned throughout the semester instead of just getting marks back from their teachers after every assignment and test. The students also feel more confident in their grades at the end as they can relate the grade to everything they have actually learned and not how well they memorized concepts the night before the exam.

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Chapter Seven – Using Assessment to Guide Instruction
*February 5, 2014*

*Posted by jennienorgaard in ECS 410.*

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This chapter talks about teaching students while helping them learn how to assess themselves. Students learn how to assess themselves in order to be successful. This is also known as assessment *for* learning. This chapter deals with the idea that the students come up with the criteria needed for the assignments they are asked to do. However, the teacher can add in a few other details to the criteria that the students have created. This way students are involved in their own learning and know what all the expectations are for the end result. From the criteria that the students are asked to come up with, they can self-assess their own work before handing it in. From the criteria the students come up with, they create a T-chart showing all of their ideas and from here the T-chart can be a guide to their ongoing learning, assessment and evaluation. This chapter talks about “how instruction is changing as we involve students in classroom assessment.” (p.71)

From my past experiences, I found that most students were usually engaged more when the learning was done in some sort of a game or challenge/competition. For example, students would be more involved in the learning if it was in the form of a game that resulted in a winner and possibly receiving a prize. When there was a goal that students wanted to reach, such as “winning the prize” at the end, they were a lot more focused and engaged in the classroom. Students were more involved in their own learning in this way as it wasn’t the traditional teacher lecturing at the front of the room. The students didn’t really know what the learning destination was; they just knew that they wanted to win the game in the end. I wouldn’t say the students really knew what kind of evidence they had to produce, they normally just blurted out as many answers to the questions as possible until they got the correct answer. However, in some cases this got students thinking more about their answers before saying them to make sure it was correct. As for the self-monitoring part I don’t think it really applied in this sense. Unless the individual or teams were to compare themselves to the other team from what the end result was.

I find that when students are more involved in their own learning and it isn’t just the traditional teacher lecturing and students listening, the students are usually more focused and engaged in the lesson. I think that games/activities/competitions are a great way to get the students more engaged in their own learning. However, it doesn’t always have to result in the “winning” team getting a prize or treat. Apart from these ways, there are also other different ways that can be incorporated to get more students involved in their own learning that should be utilized more often. I think it is important to incorporate “real world” problems or situations especially when dealing with a math classroom. I find that students are more engaged and are willing to take part more in the lesson if they can see that they can actually use this math in other areas of their lives apart from in math class.