Thursday, February 4, 2016

Do They Understand It? Just Ask! Assessing Math Through Conversations

In doing some reading about teacher efficacy, I found the above quote, from a teacher who participated in mathematics professional learning.

This is a recurring theme for our teachers. It comes up, again, and again, and again.

We recently facilitated professional learning which included looking at student work to try and figure out where the students were at in their mathematical thinking. I talked to one teacher for almost 10 minutes, trying to figure out what a student was thinking with a piece of work. We had our inferences, but really, we need the kid there to ask him. It would have been cleared up, just like that.

If you want to know what a student is thinking? Ask him. Ask her. As I went around the room that day, a big theme was: don't you just want to go back and ask some clarifying questions?

Gone are the days when the paper artifact of the work was assumed to tell us all we need to know about student mathematical learning. Look for the absences, look for the gaps- and ask. Ask the specific questions you need to ask to get at their mathematical understanding. I would have to say we are obliged to do so- Growing Success tells us to assess through conversations, observations, and products. I have been less and less interested in products over time. In the moment and current thinking in the math classroom is far more interesting to me.

Don't be content to give grades based on the absences, gaps, or lacks. Ask questions. Listen for the answers. Seek understanding. Seek it, and, usually, you will find it.

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