Thursday, April 14, 2011

NCTM11 - Supporting Productive Struggling

My 2nd Session (Thursday) was done by Susan May and Kathi Cook from the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas (Austin). I also met up with @Fouss and @Sarah_IC - all three of us had it on our list.  I chose this one because I have lower level students who do struggle and I don't want them to give up so easily.

Website with more information - in progress, presentation and handouts will be there eventually.

The first part of the session was spent talking about what persistence is, what characteristics persistent students have and the importance of it. The second part of the session was talking about some of the mechanics (for lack of a better word) of how to get there.

Bascially, they chose to focus on Algebra 1 because it is the course that creates the greatest angst - there are two transitions occurring at that time: the transition from Middle School to High School and the transition from K-8 Math to math that has an algebraic focus.

Persistent students -
**understand the role of challenging tasks in learning
**understand that setbacks can be a natural part of learning
**engage in self-monitoring
**learn from setbacks and struggles

Persistence is related to what you're doing.

They talked about the theories of Carol Dweck (views of intellegence - fixed vs. malleable) and Barry Zimmerman (self-regulated learning theory). These theories shaped quite a bit of their work.

Why do we want to persistent learn?
**The problems get bigger.
Think of a time outside of school where you struggled. Then think of the satisfaction when you get through the struggle. This was how they framed why persistence is important.

As students are working through the problems, they have 2 tools - a Problem-Solving Tool and a self-reflection tool.  The problem solving tool has the four steps outlined with key questions - make a plan, monitor work, evaluate, and loop back. The idea is that students are jotting down their thoughts as they work through the problem. Then, once they are finished, they complete the self-reflection tool, which is a series of questions about how the process went.

As you are working through introducing the process to students, you start with smaller, easier problems first (the bucket problem from Die Hard for example). You should be modeling what the thoughts of a persistent student are and introduce the inner dialogue to them. You have to step students into this process.  Help students to learn how to reflect and understand that it's not just about the answer. There is a delicate balance between productive struggle and frustration.

This whole process takes time.  The suggestion was to set aside a day each week to work on the problems in class (for example, Fridays). Students can work on the problems outside of class, but only that day will be devoted to class time on the problems.  They suggested the NOYCE Foundation Problems of the Month, which have 5 levels to the problems. This way, all students can find somewhere to start, but also will reach a point where they struggle.  It doesn't matter where the kids get with the problem (Level A, Level E, etc.), but it matters that they are struggling.  Every student is working at the place they are at. It's important to make srue they are reflecting. The ultimate goal is that every time they are working on challenging problems students are asking themselves the reflective questions.

Two other websites they provided:
Academic Youth Development
Neuroscience for Kids

I really liked this session. I am still struggling with the how to make the Rich Problem thing work and for the first time, I felt like I had an answer on how to start. I definitely want to incorporate this in my classes next year. This will be a definitely project to pursue this summer. I am also considering incorporating this into my Math 1 classes for the rest of the year just to see how it goes. Haven't decided if I'm going to for sure, but I am thinking about it.  Good session - check out the websites.

No comments: