Setting Routines for Self Reflection
Precision teaching is the idea that relates to the book, Visible Learning by John Hattie. The premise behind Hattie’s research is the correlation between surface, deep, and transfer learning.
The findings go on to address the influence that different aspects of the education system have on our students and the math classroom. Basically, the idea of getting the “most bang for your buck”.
Every school district, school, and classroom teacher wants a magic formula for success. With limited time and funding, how do we ensure our academic goals are being met in the math classroom?
As math teachers, how do we know if our students are learning?
Setting routines are one of the cornerstones of a successful classroom. It is important for teachers to understand the difference in a compliant classroom and an environment conducive to learning.
When beginning the school year it is crucial to ask ourselves a few questions when considering routines and procedures.
- Do your students know what they are supposed to be learning? And more importantly why?
- Are your students benefitting from your expertise?
- Are your students capable of connecting their learning to what they’ve already learned and are they able to see where this learning goal will lead?
- Are your students able to manage their own learning?
- At the end of the lesson, are your students able to hold themselves accountable for what they have learned? (leading into self-assessment)
Self-assessment has one of the largest effect sizes for student learning (Hattie, 2009). The process of self-assessment requires several different elements implemented in the classroom.
One example of self-assessments in the math classroom is the use of Math Journals. Beyond a journal prompt containing the “content goal” teachers have an amazing opportunity to go beyond a right/wrong answer by providing students with a voice for self-reflection.
Below is an example of a pre, mid, and post year self-assessment used in a fourth-grade classroom to gauge confidence and attitude toward mathematics.
This same questioning is also used in this classroom in the aforementioned Math Journal activity. The example seen below addressed the math topic of Place Value. The students were asked to describe the value of the 8 in the number 88,888.
They could use pictures and words. The prompt was actually shared at the beginning of class as an informal discussion. Students were asked to read the prompt and think about what they already knew about place value, what they remember from previous lessons that would help them with today’s goal, if they felt like the topic was going to be difficult and if so, why?
They were given time to think about their responses and write them in their journal, then after the lesson, they returned to their journal to work on the prompt and reflect on their thoughts from the beginning of class. Once journals were complete, they were allowed to share the journals with their group.
The outcome of this part of the activity is to foster a safe space for math discourse, more importantly, mathematical talk is proven to lead to the ultimate level of transfer of learning and metacognitive awareness.
If self-assessment is the goal and math journaling is one tool, what is the payoff? How do these techniques help spark success in our math students? Metacognition is the ability to think about our thinking (almost sounds too simple).
While it may sound simple it is the cornerstone of all actual and true learning. Metacognition happens when students practice self-reflection on their level of thinking. In addition, when students can relate this to a target it becomes powerful enough to increase understanding and motivation.
This knowledge promoted in the classroom is invaluable. As teachers, we all dream of that day when our students are intrinsically motivated. A moment in the classroom when the value of the content rises above a state standard or an arbitrary notion but becomes a self-fulfilling desire to learn and grow. But students need guidance and tools to develop their metacognitive awareness and become confident in the ability to self-question.
Formative evaluation is the process of gathering evidence to inform instruction. In simpler terms, it is the process for teachers and students to communicate about the learning that is taking place and the direction that instruction should go. Formative evaluation should drive instruction decisions, gathering real-time data is crucial in guiding how the teacher will proceed with the delivery of the lesson.
In the book, Visual Learning, Hattie speaks of several internal questions that drive learners:
- Where am I going? What are my goals?
- How am I going there? What progress is being made towards my goal?
- Where to next? What activities need to be undertaken next to make better progress?
Consequently, these are the same three questions that teachers must ask about instruction as they make adjustments based on the data they gather from students. Some examples shown below, include response cards (whiteboards), and exit tickets, journal entries may also serve as a way to inform instruction.