Friday, February 18, 2005

Blogfolios - What I'm Learning

I'm finding out what a great form of assessment these blogfolios are. Unfortunately, I'm finding out the hard way--by seeing how poorly written my students' extended responses were today. This is the third extended response entry they have written and for quite a few of them, their worst. But even this dark cloud has a silver lining: due to the lack of improvement on this entry, I now know many things about them, and this process, that I did not know before:
  • Wanna know if your students have a good command of the vocabulary associated with a particular concept? Have them write about it. This past entry--the old so-in-so is so tall and casts a shadow a certain length while a lamp post is a certain height and casts a shadow a certain length problem--required students to write about corresponding sides on similar triangles. I think I saw one paper the whole day that used the word corresponding.
  • You can pass out worksheets all day long, but they are best used for practice, not assessment. I've learned more from assigning a single word problem about what my students know of similar triangles and using proportions to solve them than I would have if I had assigned a page full of drill and practice problems. The main thing that I've seen is once you change the context of the problem, all the skills you thought they had suddenly disappear. So how do you change this? Like I said, you have to drill and practice so that the kids learn the skill. But you also have to provide them with many problems that diverge from the basic practice problem and require them to use those skills in a real-world context.
  • Assign a worksheet, the kids practice the skills. Assign a word-problem, and they have to use problem-solving strategies to solve it. The particular problem that I have been speaking of throughout this post required students to draw a picture. How many drew it? Very few. So to get students to practice these strategies, and to recognize appropriate times to apply them, assign more word problems.
  • Students are having a difficult time explaining the problem-solving process in words. Their explanations leave out a lot of steps, and when they include all the steps, they are seldom explained sequentially. As I helped a girl get her steps in order, I had her begin by numbering the steps 1 - 4 and then writing a brief phrase explaining what she did for each number. This way she could see a numbered order of steps. After she completed this, I then had her type the steps as sentences. It helped her a lot. Guess how I will have my students write their next entries.
So I have some ideas of how to improve this whole blogfolio process. Next time, I'll have my students revise today's entries, publish the revisions, and then have them compare them to the nonedited entries below them. Hopefully, they'll see some major improvement.

1 comment:

Roberta :) said...

James, I love your reflections on what you are doing. Students have had very little opportunity to put math processes into words - many adults couldn't do it! Giving students the opportunity to write and feedback on how to improve is the only way to get this process to become natural...it's a long, painful journey for some...but worth it!