In May 2018, I wrote notes for myself about a blog post talking about using the “By the End of” approach to organizing content used for cumulative review for a year-end assessment. Since then, my colleague and I have used this format consistently across both of our levels of math, for all core content. In May, we used it to specifically to have students review for the state exams (MCAS) over the course of two weeks, both in-class and for homework. Students self-identified topics to work on using self-assessments, which were available as paper option, although they were not required for students to use to identify their topics.
During the course of the review time, students used electronic options, such as Khan Academy and ASSISTments; we created Problem Sets in ASSISTments out of Exit Tickets with targeted problems to focus on material on the year-end assessment. We also had paper options available, as well as providing a variety of extension options on all topics.
Overall, most scores on cumulative assessment were in the 90’s. As I reflected on this work last year, I felt that the way we set up the review “empowered” students to choose content they needed to work on and to choose the modality they preferred. The students didn’t have to sit through an externally-identified set of problems or content; as the teacher, I did not have to create 24 different sets of content, which is the approach of Differentiated Instruction. On the contrary, instead of me spending hours trying to decide what my students each needed to work on, students used their own self-knowledge (with supports in the form of self-assessments, answer keys, videos, working directly with me, etc.) to create their OWN individualized program of study. With this approach, the students were more engaged, since they chose the work, and the teacher is less overwhelmed, which leaves him/her more able to focus energy on working with students who need it.
About a month ago, I was talking with Dr. Katie Novak about a course she is planning on Universal Design for Learning for our district and she described a different approach, one even more radical. She talked about giving the students some learning goals and having the students identify resources and create assessments, then use those student-created materials to complete their work.
Imagine what that would be like!
I’m struggling with it, to be honest, especially with how we would curate content to ensure that students are engaging with material that moves them towards meeting the standards.
But I’m also thinking about it a lot. I’ve parked the idea in the back of my head and I’m letting it simmer there for now. I suspect I will be able to give it a try in about May 2019, when we’ve taught most of the content. At that point, I can imagine letting go of the reins and turning the really hard and exciting work over to the students then…or at least giving it a try.