I’m stuck! − do I get 5 million points?
THE CLASS burst into cheers and applause. Annah and Camilla looked embarrassed, but pleased.
They were stuck!
This was a great moment, they were about to enter the process of learning. But only if they were prepared to get themselves unstuck.
Getting stuck is the new joke in my classes. Students put up their hands and announce, “I’m stuck, do I get five million points?” Only if they get unstuck.
This semester the target is to get more students working on assessing their own work, student self-assessment. The argument is that if they can critically assess the quality of their own thinking, they will take more responsibility for their own learning.
I’m focussing on pushing them to work on that point when they get stuck. Why have they got stuck? Where have they got stuck? Just what is it that they don’t understand? What can they do to help themselves get unstuck?
And when they’ve got unstuck, could they get unstuck again? Could they explain it or help another student to get unstuck?
For the past couple of years I’ve used a number of rubrics to try to help students assess their own work. At the end of each semester I ask them to tell me what they think their grade should be, and why… using a rubric describing the grade levels. A tear-off form gives them the opportunity to anonymously grade me.
Basic day-to-day formative assessment in the classroom is based on student-friendly learning targets and the idea of starting through getting it to got it. The descriptions focus on talking math, to what extent students can explain or discuss or simply formulate a question about an idea.
Assignments and worksheets and working paper all contain five check-boxes with brief descriptions to help students tell me how they are getting on:
❏ Got it!… I can do this without help + I can help others
❏ Almost got it… I can figure it and sometimes help others
❏ Getting it… I’ve got the idea + I can do it with a little help from my friends
❏ Good start… I can do it with help step-by-step
❏ Starting… I can start problems and ask questions to get help
Lately assignments include prompt questions to help students reflect as they search for why they are stuck and then reflect on how they got unstuck. Fold the assignment from the left-hand edge to the center and read questions which help find why the student is stuck, such as:
❏ What have I done that’s OK?
❏ Is my answer reasonable?
❏ Have I missed a negative or made a calculation error?
❏ Where have I got stuck?
Fold from the right and find more reflective questions, such as
❏ What did I not understand when I got stuck?
❏ How did I get unstuck?
❏ Could I explain what I did, or help a friend to get unstuck?
For my own use, the rubrics also contain descriptions or the sort of things students say, and their behaviour, at different points in the starting-getting-it-got-it cycle. Plus how they cope with processes and concepts. That’s work in progress. Feedback and suggestions would be appreciated.
So, the big question is… will Annah and Camilla get themselves unstuck? Watch this space.