Making My Learning Visible

I am in my 28th year of teaching high school math (with some overlapping years of middle school math thrown in as well) and some would think that I should have it all down pretty well but his point. Luckily for me, this is only partially true. Also, luckily for me I have a great community of support online (I’m looking at YOU #mtbos.)

In the spring of 2010 when I was interviewing with my current school I was told that one of my tasks was to teach AP Statistics. I had never taught stats before at any level. There was a time in my life – in 2001 as a matter of fact – when I stopped talking with a school about a position because they needed a stats teacher. This time I was more confident and more interested in the school so I took on this challenge. I enrolled in a week-long summer institute taught at Fordham in Manhattan by Chris Olsen. I’ve really enjoyed teaching this class but I still feel far less confident in Stats than I do in any of my other classes. I gave our first quiz of the year last Friday over Section 4.1 of the Starnes, Yates, and Moore 4th Edition of The Practice of Statistics. A number of my students were engaged in a pretty heated debate outside the classroom. I was pretty sure that I knew what the answer was but students in favor of two different answers both made compelling arguments. In the past, I might have dug in my heels and stood by my initial guess. Or I might have thrown he question out. Or I might have given everybody credit regardless of their answer. In any of these situations I would have felt pretty unsatisfied and I would not have been any smarter. I was tempted to go to the AP Community page where I have found some pretty helpful folks. However, the feedback cycle there is not particularly rapid and I have to remind myself to go back and check in. Twitter to the rescue! I sent out a plea to Hedge (@approx_normal) and to Bob Lochel (@bobloch) sharing a link to my quiz and begging for help. Hedge replied in a series of about 8 tweets and Bob replied as well. Hedge suggested that I also reach out to Shelli (@druinok) Temple for help as well. In the end, I felt smarter, I realized that my students who had a misconception (a) had a very reasonable misconception and (b) had that because of something I had said earlier. I now know to be more careful with my use of vocab, I know that there are folks who have my back. I was able to show my students the twitter transcripts of these conversations so that they can (a) see that learning keeps on going on even when you are a supposed expert like they see their teachers to be and (b) they (hopefully) see that I am trying my best to be clear and fair in how I evaluate their work. The fact that Bob suggested that each of the two hotly debated answers should be accepted certainly helped.



One thought on “Making My Learning Visible

  1. Wendy Menard

    Great post – and I love that the students were ‘hotly debating’ – always a sign that something good is happening. And your being willing to modify your own approach based on their response sets a great example for the kids. Good luck with this course! I’ve always wanted to teach it.


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