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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Self Assessment: Numbers Matter

Do you teach well?

How do you determine the merit of your teaching? How do you relay this information to others?

It's difficult to be objective with regard to your own work. That's why it's important to create a self assessment process that helps to move you forward with your teaching and learning--a process that works in tandem with outside evaluations and assessments.

For example, a main objective of my work next year is to teach math well.

How will I assess that?

First, I have to define what teaching math well means. What does teaching math well look like? What are the results I seek?

This is a difficult question in these times--times when "teaching math well" has many definitions depending whom you talk to. The integration of technology and new research related to learning and the way the brain works have impacted math teaching and learning greatly. Technology integration and cognitive research are relatively new with regard to integration into classroom practice and math education. Therefore it's difficult to define what teaching math well means today, but at this point, I would define teaching math well with the following attributes:
  • Students understand and know how to use multiple paths of math learning including using online math tech teaching platforms like Khan Academy, coding to understand math, making math models, reading math books, learning math vocabulary, and developing numeracy skills, knowledge, and concepts.
  • Students understand the beauty and value of math--they know that mathematical thinking plays an important role in all aspects of life and they appreciate the value of developing a strong mathematical mindset.
  • Students enjoy learning math and realize that math can be learned in a wide variety of ways.
  • Students master age and/or grade-level math standards.
  • Students develop number facility across all operations. (I teach 5th grade)
  • Students develop a visual foundation of math concepts and knowledge.
  • Students are able to communicate mathematical ideas with clarity, ease, and accuracy.
  • Students become facile with the Standards of Mathematical Practice.
  • Students understand how to use math resources and tools with accuracy, ease, and purpose.
  • Students are able to use mathematical thinking and reasoning to solve real-world problems and complete meaningful projects. 
  • Students have growth mindsets. They understand that everyone is capable of learning math and the key is figuring out what they need and accessing those tools and processes to deeply learn the subject.
As I think of the attributes above, I next wonder about how I might assess these attributes.  

First, I'll refine the list above. Then I'll create an early year assessment(s) to assess the attributes noted. I want to have a thorough understanding of where my students are starting the year with regard to these attributes.

Then as I teach standard-by-standard with meaningful numbers, problems, and projects, I'll assess student growth with regard to these attributes. I'll keep good records related to the attributes above and work to be explicit and transparent with students, their coaches/parents, and colleagues with regard to this information. 

This logical process will help me to self-assess my work, and that honest self assessment will help me to forward my teaching in ways that matter. This assessment will also help me to identify, share, and advocate for practices that work well with students in the classroom. Too often educators are given a list of directives without consult of voice, and then it's our job to follow the directions and hopefully find ways to personalize the approaches in ways that matter. This works if you have solid evidence for what you do and why you do it. Starting the year with comprehensive assessment or set of assessments as well as follow-up formal and informal formative assessments gives you more voice, trust, and support over what you do because you have the evidence to show what's working well. 

Now, it's true that none of us can assess ourselves completely. We need to have outside evaluators and evaluations to contribute to a quality assessment. Too often outside evaluators are short on time and without the related content knowledge to assess completely too, and that's why it's important that we create meaningful self-assessments prior to the start of the year, assessments that truly lead us forward to do the work that matters when it comes to teaching every child under our leadership well.