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Friday, December 12, 2014

What Is Your Practice Quotient?

With online tools, students' practice quotients are much more explicit than in the past.

For example, the list to the right shows my students' Khan Academy minutes for the past month. When looking at the minutes, you'll notice that the student with the highest minutes studied for 642 minutes in 30 days which equals about 20 minutes a day while the student with the least minutes has a total of 3 minutes.

Since I know the names that match the students, I know some extenuating circumstances why some students have multiple minutes and other students have only a few. In some instances, a child may not be using Khan Academy and studying with another tool instead, but in other instances some students are just not putting in the practice time at home due to a number of reasons extending from extensive after school schedules and activities to a difficult time making home study part of the at-home schedule.

I typically defer to parents and guardians when it comes to homework. I know that every home is different and every child has different priorities. Yet, as I match names with minutes of practice, I see a strong correlation between math success and confidence with those with more minutes, and less success and confidence with those with fewer minutes.

This observation and analysis makes me want to think more deeply about the following areas:

  • How do we teach students and families well about home study routines and the benefit of practice?
  • How do we make room for the diverse attitudes, time available, and level of academic support for home study?
  • How much do we push parents and students when it comes to home study completion and work?
  • How do we support apt home study?
  • Do we provide enough support for students' after-school study needs and interest?
As an educator, I am now evaluated on my students' academic gains in the area of math alone. If my students succeed and grow as math students, my evaluation looks better. If my students don't progress, my evaluation doesn't look as good. This presents many ethical questions to consider:
  • I can reach greatest growth numerically by focusing on students who are most willing to study in and out of school because their combined effort and positive attitude and my teaching will result in lots of growth, yet I don't want to leave out the students who are resistant to learning and practicing as that's an important and possibly the most important charge I have as an educator.
  • I don't want to push parents to support students just for my gain, but for students' overall gain. However, I can support the positive "push" with the knowledge that a strong math foundation results in better learning in all subjects. 
  • If school just focuses on narrow academic gains, we won't educate the whole child. There's a temptation to keep the focus narrow with these new evaluation and testing standards, yet we ethically know that a good quality program looks at the whole child and presents a holistic curriculum.
  • Engagement matters and practice minutes that are arduous and problematic are probably not minutes of strong learning and growth, so learning is not just about minutes, but about the minutes and their positive potency as well. (I'm thinking about what this algorithm would look like.)
I'm going to continue to think about the practice quotient as it pertains to individual student success, the achievement gap, and the learning program I design with and for students. What are your thoughts related to the practice quotient?  I'm curious.