Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Day 111: Formative Assessment

Students spent a large portion of class on the second quiz in Unit 7. This quiz was slightly longer than normal, so more time was allotted. It doesn't appear to have increased results any. 

In general, the correlation between student engagement and content is based primarily on ease of understanding the material. What I mean is that students in large part actually worked diligently on the first worksheet of the unit on parallelograms, but refused to work on the second regarding trapezoids and kites. If anything, we actually spent more time "learning" about trapezoids and kites when the computer lab time is factored in, so all I think of is that these shapes are less familiar to students, so their fixed mindset becomes an obstacle. If something seems easy (most likely because it's familiar), then students will given it a shot. If something is new and appears difficult, students take the "if I don't try, then I didn't really fail" approach. 

I'm guessing if I looked back across ALL of my standards since September, I'd find proficiency across the 'easier' ones (measuring segments & angles) and a marked lack of progress on the 'hard' ones (right triangle trig for example). 

Dealing with fixed vs. growth mindset is one of the biggest frustrations I have. There is a lot of pressure to make the content relevant and engaging, but I cannot do that if students refuse to move beyond the first (and easiest) step. To me, right triangle trig is amazing for its (apparent) simplicity and its almost endless applicability. It's just a bunch of proportions after all. But as soon as you give most students a glance at the endgame, they quickly state "oh well I'll never do that" as justification for why they don't need to learn it. 

This is a pervasive problem outside of just geometry, but it becomes incredibly difficult to teach 2nd semester geometry to students who couldn't be bothered to learn the content from 1st semester. How do you teach surface area and volume of polyhedra to students who never learned how to: name polygons, determine the area of a regular polygon, use trig to solve for missing sides of a right triangle, determine a central angle from dividing 360 into equal parts?

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