Option 2: I need a plan to get students going

Your student change should include a date and what you’d like to see by that date:

  • A % of students that is effectively engage with performance tasks
  • The number of group, non-graded performance tasks you will have administered
  • The number of students who can articulate clear areas where they are trying to improve with performance tasks
  • Etc.

Your teacher change might include:

  • Creating a structure that helps students start tasks or discuss their tasks after working in groups
  • Implement a weekly routine in which students start working on tasks
  • Etc.

Here is your protocol:

  1. Set the context: If you gave a task, what material did you teach in the unit? How did you teach it? What kinds of activities did students do, or do students usually do? Did/do they get to discuss? Work in groups? Etc.
  2. Discuss the work: If you gave a task, what differences do you notice between different students’ work? If you haven’t given a task, what kinds of explanations have you been able to see from students in writing and out loud? How is this connected with your answers to #1?
  3. Discuss mindsets: What kinds of mindsets do you think your students have about: their ability in math? what math is, and whether or not performance tasks count as math? how useful and fun math is? the kinds of strategies they should be using on assessments?
  4. Discuss strategies: Read the questions below to help you think about what you can do to change those mindsets. What might you do differently as a result of this discussion?

You may also find more helpful resources in the “Procedures, Structures, and Culture” Filebox!

Are your students not comfortable getting started alone? Feel free to do your first performance tasks in groups. This can help increase comfort with high level thinking.

Do your students understand what the product is supposed to look like? If not, you might consider giving student an opportunity to evaluate and score one another’s work. You could do that with student work from your own class, or if students would be more comfortable, you can find examples of student work online (for example, this site has work from a variety of grade levels; a soft-copy of the work we looked at tonight, and other high school work, can be found here).

Are your students reflecting on and evaluating their own thinking? In addition to the kinds of feedback we talked about earlier in the session, it’s important to debrief each task–whether students are working in groups or working independently. This book is an excellent resource for developing your skill in executing these debriefs (later this year, we will likely have some PD options based around the book). A brief (and free!) summary of the book is available here. There are also good protocols for discussion available here.

Do your students have test anxiety? Make sure you’re not always only giving these tasks in high-stakes environment. Continuously throughout the year, students should be working on big, open-ended problems, ideally in groups, and many of those instances it should not be graded (or graded for effort, rather than correctness).

Do you feel like your class lacks the appropriate culture? This blog post has some helpful hints about how to group students, how to arrange the room, and little steps you can build to further your culture towards one that is oriented to performance tasks.

Are your students just not getting started? These techniques may be useful in getting students moving on their thinking.

Are you picking the right task? This blog post has a good overview of qualities that make an effective performance task.

Am I thoughtfully structuring how students work? See this blog post for one teacher’s structure (scroll down to “Finally, implementing the task”).

Are you  not convinced that this is the right kind of assessment? Some of the ideas here are based on this research. If you have more questions about this approach, definitely let Boyce know.

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