Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Reflections on Midterm Conferences in "Gradeless" 9-10 Math

This post can also be found on our team's TLLP blog.

It has been an observation of mine that students are struggling to transfer the meta-cognition skills gained in other places into the math classroom. The ideas and structures I am putting onto their math learning seem to be very different than anything they have done in math before that they do not realize they have done it elsewhere. It has made for some interesting reflection on my part.

In continuing with my journey to explore student reflection I wanted to have students self-evaluate at midterm and conference with me to determine their report grade and report card comments. I set this up using an assignment on Google Classroom and had the sign up for a conference time-slot.

My grade 10s were given a reflection document that included a few things (outlined via images below).

Part 1: Identify pieces of evidence and start to identify criteria from the map that were evident in that evidence

Part 2: Highlight where evidence shows that they are for each criteria of each overarching learning goal in the course (the map is a partial map, only including the aspects relevant at this point in the course)

Part 3: Self-evaluate and reevaluate learning and next steps

When this was all said and done I opened this file when students came to me for their conference. Since I was finding that students were struggling with this process in math I ended up spending most of this time looking at their map with them and identifying areas where we disagreed so that we could discuss them. I recognize that I had not done the map justice (did not explain it well enough) and had already known that it would be difficult as it would be their first real exposure to it (I was only able to write the map myself the week before giving this assignment). Needless to say, I learned a lot - and had already planned to get a student focus-group together to help me reword the map more appropriately for students.

So next time I will:
- get students using the map earier
- rework it to use more student-friendly language
- model how to use the map
- have students evaluate using the map before midterm
- continue to build student reflection and self- & peer-assessment skills explicitly

The grade 9s I do not have a map for so I approached their reflection by having them fill in a chart while referencing the parts of the curriculum document that were relevant at this point. They were often able to identify specific expectations that they were doing well on and ones that they had to work on. What ended up lacking was them considering these expectations from a lens that expanded from just the "understand and use" - I need a way to make sure that the 9s consider the math processes as well in the future.

Overall students responded fairly positively during conferences when I pointed out things that had not considered that showed they were struggling with aspects of the course, but the discussions took a long time. The conferencing process was valuable, but I need to seek some ways to make it more manageable and to be away from facilitating student learning for less time.


  1. Thanks for the summary, Heather. I didn't have the courage to block a week for conferencing. I like your templates for students. Have you considered a single point rubric for criteria...with just ministry standard criteria rather than a full rubric? I have student give a level based on the L3 criteria. How did student's self assessments compare to your assessment? Curious...i have about 80% agreeing with me, 5% giving themselves lower scores, and the rest higher scores. Some who want higher scores are willing to work for them, others defer to my judgement. I'm late blogging...hope to say more soon and respond to more of what you have shared here. :)

    1. Hi Amy!
      Thanks for the reply. Despite the trials encountered it was worth doing (and with senior classes these things usually run a bit smoother). The map they are using to evaluate on is not what I would call a rubric - it has a similar look, of course, but it is designed to be a progression of learning (hence, map). I don't know how student's would be able to determine what other levels were without some guidelines. My 9s were done more in the way you describe and it was not concrete enough even for me, never mind them. The other advantage to the map is that it would have max 5 goals. So it can help the course feel more manageable. Will keep working on this process and sharing updates as they happen!

  2. I've found the time conferring goes smoother as the year goes on. It's so very new to both us and students the first few times! Thank you for sharing your reflection - it will be so very useful to math teachers around the globe!

    1. Thanks for the reply, Joy.
      I am hoping that it gets better, and also that since there are others at my school doing it that it will also help. It just seems like they are having trouble transferring the skills to the math classroom. Will keep trying!