Mathematical Mindsets: Chpt. 8

This is one of the chapters I have been waiting to read: Assessment for a Growth Mindset. It seems somewhat contradictory when you think what growth mindset stands for and then the word assessment is associated with it. Let's begin a recap of chapter 8 in Jo Boaler's book, Mathematical Mindsets.

The most important preparation we can give students is a growth mindset, positive beliefs about their own ability, and problem-solving mathematical tools that they are prepared to use in any mathematical situation. ~Jo Boaler (142)

Key Takeaway: Jo Boaler emphasizes the need to transform how we assess students in the math classroom. The goal would be to replace fixed mindset testing with growth mindset assessment that channels mathematics that is broad, creative, and rich in problem solving. In this way, students would be empowered. Rather than students seeing a grade, students should see diagnostic comments/feedback that celebrate their knowledge and guide them to improvement.

Classroom Connections: As teachers, we need to help students become more cognizant of the math they are learning and where they are in the learning process (151).
  • Self-assessment through reflection can help students become more aware of the mathematics they are learning. When asked what are you working on in math, we want students to focus on the content of mathematics and not the chapter, lesson, page, or problem. Students can choose one of the following to respond to at the end of class (158):
    • What was the big idea we worked on today?
    • What did I learn today?
    • In what situations could I use the knowledge I learned today?
    • What questions do I have about today's work?
    • What new ideas do I have that this lesson made me think about? 
  • Exit tickets can be used as a tool to guide instruction. The exit ticket can focus on the key target understanding from the lesson. In the past, I have asked students upon completion to place their exit tickets in a red, yellow, or green basket. In this way, I can get an understanding of student's understanding of content, while allowing students to self-reflect on their ability in completing the skill: green: confident, yellow: getting there, red: help needed. If a student demonstrates understanding yet places his/her exit ticket in the red basket, this may indicate some positive growth mindset messages may be needed. If a student does not demonstrate understanding yet places his/her exit ticket in the green basket, this may indicate a misconception needs to be addressed. 
  • Grading should move beyond checking the accuracy of procedural questions. How might student work be used differently with a shift in focus to whether students ask questions, use multiple representations to show math, build on the thinking of others, and justify their thinking? Math is multidimensional and simply grading if an answer is correct/incorrect does not convey a complete picture of a student's mathematical performance.
Above all else, it is important to view assessment for learning! Assessment should provide information about a student's learning. Rather than focus on grades, the emphasis should be on constructive feedback. Ultimately, the parameters set by a district set the expectations for teachers in terms of grading and assessments, but within those parameters, fostering positive messages and focusing on student learning, and not only achievement, are steps that can be taken.

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