Tag Archives: miscellany

Pathetic self-indulgence

The ignoble motivation for this post is to regain some of the self-respect I lost by not completing 85% of Jo Boaler’s class by the deadline. The due date was clearly stamped on every page, but instead of checking what day of the week that date corresponded to, I said, “I think that’s next Monday,” and moved on as if that were fact. I logged in to complete the necessary tasks today only to discover that everything was due yesterday.

The 79% that I completed before the deadline was not remotely wasted. My teaching has grown and my classes have changed as a result of it. And since the course was free, I can’t lament the sunk cost. But, gosh, I wanted that certificate for passing the course! As superficial as it is, that certificate kept me going in the class when all my other responsibilities and interests threatened to crowd it out.

So to everyone who cares (that’s exactly . . . no one but me), please make note that I did not give up on the course partway through, despite sore temptation. I persevered, and had every intention of reaching the passing mark, if not for a sloppy view I took of the due date.

There. Totally vindicated.

Asking students to think about mistakes

I’ve been loving the new things I’m doing this year. I should be posting more often, but hey.

I’ve started a pattern of spending the day after a test, before the tests have been graded, introducing a journal writing prompt for the kids to do for homework. After the test my kids took this week, I played two short clips from Jo Boaler’s video lesson about making mistakes in math class. The first clip described why mistakes are important to learning, how they can create two rounds of brain activity that don’t exist when problems are solved without mistakes. In the second clip Jo gave guidelines for teachers about how to get students to overcome their fear of mistakes. The writing prompt I gave students suggested that they

  • Describe a time when they had made a mistake in my class
  • Talk about how they feel and react after making a mistake in math
  • Give suggestions for what the class could do to help them view mistakes differently

On average, the journals I received in response to this assignment were less insightful than I’d hoped. But one or two bright spots showed that my work on embracing mistakes as part of the learning process hadn’t been completely lost on the students.

Here are the two clips.

For some reason I can’t get the videos to start at the right point, so navigate to 0:46 on this one to see the bit I showed my class.

Start this one at 1:22.

Testing to Aid Retention

This (by Tania Lombrozo on NPR’s Cosmos & Culture blog) interests me because it aligns with what I’ve seen for myself and my students.

And that’s not all: there’s also evidence that test-taking itself can improve retention for the material being tested. In a 2006 demonstration of a phenomenon known as the “testing effect,” for example, Roedieger and Karpicke had students read passages of text and then either repeatedly study them or repeatedly test their ability to recall them, without any feedback on how well they did on the tests. The students who repeatedly studied the passage were more confident about their ability to remember the content than those who were repeatedly tested. But the latter group considerably outperformed the former when it came to actual memory for the passage one week later.

So testing can be an excellent tool in an educator’s toolbox, but it’s one that needs to be used wisely. The American Psychological Association warns of the dangers of “high-stakes” testing in our nation’s schools, and a report from the National Academies of Science suggests few benefits to our current test-based accountability system.