How Do I Know They’ve Learned?

In our meeting of middle-school teachers this week, the head of the middle school shared his vision for our future meetings. He wanted them to be a place where we discuss the practice of teaching; announcements and discussions on logistics (which took up a majority of our meeting time previously), would be shared in a weekly email. He was giving us a space to discuss how to become better teachers.

He gave us these little reflection journals to be used for out times together and posed a question for our first entry:

How do I know that my kids have learned what I taught them?

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I was struggling with this yesterday as I finished grading my 6th grader’s math test. I was so aggravated with the mistakes and misconceptions. During the unit, I had presented the misconceptions to them and had them break down why it WAS a misconception (through a written reflection, conversations with their partner, and a class discussion). We didn’t revisit a lot of these misconceptions and the students ended up making the mistakes again. I thought to myself, “they learned this! They explained it to me!” I guess you just battle the effects of losing new knowledge quickly over time. Bringing it to mind again shortly after learning it, can significantly raise the retention.

I’m implementing this in our current unit as I have them summarize the previous days notes with their neighbor before we move forward into the new material. They end up just reading the notes to each other so I may just have them read the notes to themselves, close their journals, and then summarize what we learned the previous day with their partner

In short, I know they’ve learned when they show me their corrected thinking through dialogue, reflections, tests, and practice problems days, weeks, and months after they initially learned the material.


I’d like this blog to be a place where I include some of my reflections and new ideas that come from this time together with my colleagues.  

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