Thursday, December 20, 2012

Shifts in Classroom Practice - Stepping Out Of My Comfort Zone

In my department, we have PLCs (Professional Learning Community Meetings) lead my an outside group called PARLO.  We meet once a month and sometimes our coach assigns us something for the next meeting.

This past month we have been given the assignment of attempting to make a shift in our classroom:  "From mathematical authority coming from the teacher or textbook toward mathematical authority coming from sound student reasoning."

I don't know about you, but I'm hurting here.  If you read my last post about the real world sucking, this is right up there with that.  I'm one of those people, who needs (I mean NEEDS) validation.  So, in my classroom there are my students who want validation and have always received validation, and there's me who wants to give validation.

So, I need help with my assignment here.  I can't wrap my head around this and could use some advice.

My ideas so far:

1) Students should try to make an educated guess right after reading a problem.  This way when they finish, they can validate their answer on their own.

2) Students can look over each other's work and offer comments and advice.

Perhaps this assignment was made for me.  We don't grow unless we step out of our comfort zone.

That's all I have.  Any thoughts?  What does this shift mean to you?  Do you do this in your classroom?  How did the students respond?


  1. I empathize with wanting to be one of those phenomenal teachers whose students learn the curriculum and create all the meaning for themselves...I have two ideas that may work: I gave my students a "plan A, Plan B" problem (it didn't matter to me if it was phone plans, renting skis, or gym memberships). The interesting part was asking, "which is a better plan?" Wow, so many good ideas that needed defending...the other is before the next test or quiz, ask the students to make a list of good test questions, ask them to defend which 4, 5, 6? represent the unit. Good Luck!

  2. I would build on Ms. Zimmer's ideas and let students choose how to solve a problem. You pose the problem but then step out of the way. Continuously ask students "What do you notice? What next? Why? Does that make sense?" I think that the more you ask questions, the more students gain experience with 'sound reasoning'.

    Basically, you have to get out of the way. Your class time should shift until you are barely talking at all. Discussion should be happening among students. Let them find validation through solving the problem on their own rather than hearing validation from you.

    Just keep throwing problems at them and asking them what to do. Give them a problem and force them to stare at for one minute in silence. Then ask for opinions: "What's one way we could start this problem? What should we do first?"

    Questioning is a really easy tool for you that can really make a difference for them. Create opportunities for students to have time to think and try and make mistakes.

  3. I'm intrigued by this concept of sound student reasoning. Is this possible to achieve in a special education resource algebra 1 class with students that have severe math deficits? Perhaps it takes baby-steps to introduce... but something to think about nonetheless. I'm open to suggestions.