“Ms. Webb, I know more than I thought I did.”
“Oh, I have lots of evidence of learning!”
These are quotes from 8th grade math students who, after engaging in a pretty intense quarter one self-reflection, were able to articulate and provide evidence of their learning.
This is my 7th year teaching math in an urban school district. This year I have been working with my TRC research team to dive deeper into assessment, student self-reflections and students taking ownership of their learning.
As part of the process at the end of quarter 1, students did a reflection on the skills and concepts that we had learned. Students were given a list of skills and had to find and support with evidence their level of understanding of each skill. To prepare for this process, during the first week of school, I shared old student self-reflections from last year and had them make notices and wonderings about what they saw. They also had to share ideas about what would make the reflections even better. This was helpful because it gave students an opportunity to see a spectrum of reflections and gave them ideas for their own. We also did a smaller reflection on a homework assignment to allow them time to practice.
Throughout the quarter students keep a hybrid binder in the class and all their “graded work” went in this binder. At the end of the quarter I gave students a table of contents that listed all the assignments that showed skills we had been working on. Students were then given class time to go through their assignments and explain what they knew for each of the skills and provide evidence. The packet had a page for each skill covered in quarter 1 and they had to write a narrative about what they understood as well as provide two pieces of evidence to support their claim. Here are several examples:
Initially, students were overwhelmed by this process because it required them to go back and look at old assignments. They also had not been required to think about their learning and write about it in a math class before. Providing evidence for a claim is typically done in an ELA class. As a result, I did get some pushback from students. When I framed it as, this is your opportunity to prove to me that you have learned something and have a say in what your grade should be, students got on board. As a result, students were very engaged in this process and completed great reflections. We were not able to finish in one class and many asked to take it home to finish. These were great reflections because students made very real declarations about what they knew and what they didn’t. They also did a great job providing evidence to support their claims. Some students made up their own examples and solved them, while others pointed to a specific example from their graded work. Students were able to give very clear explanations of what they knew, “My level of understanding on this topic is very well mastered. I mastered this skill by practicing and using an equation mat to help me visualize it.”
After reading through and talking with students during this process, I learned a lot about what students knew. It helped me to shape some of my instruction for quarter 2. It helped me make new groups and decide what to review during our fluency check. I enjoyed this process because it was a great way to get information about what students knew without using a traditional test, which students are usually nervous about. I also was able to have short, one-on-one conversations with students who normally do not speak in class.
The next time I do this, I will change a few things. It took multiple days to complete so I would like to adjust it to take less time without sacrificing the quality of work. Getting around to all of my students also took a long time which made the conversations not as meaningful because they were very surface level. Next time, instead of having a page for each skill, students can just summarize what they have learned and reference assignments that show their understanding. I am also thinking about using Flipgrid for students to record their reflections and I could watch them and respond using a recording. This method might help save time.