Student Risk-Taking

This session will focus on our students taking mathematical and intellectual risks–both why that is important, and why it is challenging. A substantial portion of the session will involve reflecting on your own classroom, so it is essential that you arrive having completed the following:

With class roster in hand (for any one class period you teach), identify for each student:

  • How many minutes into the class period does each student take his/her first risk? For the purposes of this pre-work (although we’ll revisit this definition in person), a risk is defined as any of the following, either out loud or in writing:
    • Asking a clarifying question that is directly related to the lesson’s objective (such as “do I always need the equation to be in slope-intercept form before I graph?” as opposed to “wait, did you say standard form?” or “can you repeat that?”)
    • Responding to a question of yours that requires real thought (a “higher order question” that is directly related to the day’s objective and requires more than calculation”)
    • Evaluating a statement that you or a classmate have made (agree or disagree and then justify) or defending a statement that he/she has made
    • Completing a full problem independently
  • What is he/she taking that first risk on (from the four categories above)?
  • Was he/she successful (a correct answer or an answer that demonstrates thoughtfulness and forward progress)?

Also, please bring a completed worksheet that a student has done in class (not homework, not an assessment) and has at least four problems.

Note: for some students simply speaking up in class may be a meaningful and worthwhile risk in and of itself; however, we ask that you use your judgment here and remember that for the majority of students, we are striving for a bar higher than basic participation.

This may be easiest if you videotape a full class period and then watch it afterwards, although you can certainly also ask your MTLD, mentor teacher, aide, colleague, or student-pulled-from-study-hall to take notes during an observation. You can download this spreadsheet tracker you can print and use, if it’s helpful, but there is no need to do so.


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