Thursday, October 26, 2017

Teaching Math: A Collaborative, Competency Based Program

Our team is working with care to figure out how to best teach all students well in math. This is like a giant puzzle since our students are quite diverse with regard to their current skill, knowledge, and concept profiles as well as their interests, desires, and learning behaviors.

As I noted to a colleague, this is a problem of privilege since our school has countless resources to use to meet this problem with success including:
  • dedicated, skilled staff
  • one-to-one technology
  • good tech programs (though I always yearn for more)
  • lots of hands-on learning materials/resources
  • adequate learning spaces (we're a little short on space, but that's not a big, big issue)
  • good schedules
  • supportive families
  • eager, healthy, happy students
So how do we mix and match the resources we have to successfully implement an effective, engaging, empowering math learning/teaching program?

The more I think about this, the more I am directed towards a competency based program that looks like this:
  1. Skill, concept, and/or knowledge goal is introduced
  2. Possible learning paths are presented
  3. Students work on their own, with other students, and/or with teachers and teaching assistants to make choices about their learning as they reach for competency
  4. Students take a short test over and over until they reach competency
  5. Once they reach competency, they either go to the next goal or spend some time on enrichment activities. 
  6. In general the class will move together competency by competency.
To maximize our efforts in this regard, we can do the following:
  • Personalize homework with tech venues and other activities
  • Make good use of RTI, homework club, and possibly the "Preview Program"
  • Maximize our professional time with students. How can we make the most gains with students with regard to our time-on-task with students. 
  • Make sure that students are carrying the "cognitive load" as that leads to learning--in other words, students should be puzzling, problem solving, talking about math, and actively learning as much as possible. (less passive sitting/listening and more deep, engaging, responsive learning activities)
  • Encouraging students to take charge of their learning by identifying success criteria, developing learning paths, following those paths to learning, assessing their knowledge, and advocating for greater, better, and more targeted supports.