Sunday, September 18, 2011

Pilot Recap, Week 4: Busy, busy

In week 4, we tested, debriefed the first open-ended problem, conducted a unit 1 survey, and debriefed the whole unit.  Both Heather and I were interested in finding out what students liked and didn't.  A brief summary:

What they liked:

Active learning
Content is interesting and real-life
They're not bored
Getting to use MML
Working in groups to talk about problems

What they disliked:

All the word problems
Long class period
Not being able to make up assignments

Heather and I are unapologetically strict on attendance and class participation.  The course necessitates us to be so.  We meet for a long class period and go through a lot.  That experience cannot be duplicated at home since it's usually very active, has some kind of exploration, always has discussion, and relies on working as a whole group and small group to go through the content.  Students like that dynamic because it's interesting.  But missing class has consequences.  Since developmental students can be their own worst enemies sometimes, we want them to learn the importance of doing work on time and attending every class.  We're not unreasonable about either but our expectations are high and there are consequences to missing.

The first tests were not great nor terrible.  They are learning to read the problems closer and study more.  We spent time working on them afterwards and I believe there will be a better outcome on the next unit. 

Since our class periods are 100 minutes each, that was just one day.  The rest of week we began a new unit with a new focus.  One of my favorite parts of this second unit is the incorporation of manipulatives.  We're constantly noting things that could be improved and one is more hands-on learning in the first unit.  They are eager to dig in and participate so we've got to integrate more of that into the course earlier on.

We investigated the idea of center using shapes, physical situations, and numbers.  It was interesting to look at the concept of the mean in so many different perspectives.  As with almost every activity we do, it starts out looking deceptively simplistic but always goes deeper than students anticipate, challenging them. 

We closed the week on a somewhat frustrating note.  It's always aggravating to test a lesson and find it's just not there yet.  But that's the pilot process for you.  My notes from that day are covered in annotations and post-its about all the ways to make it work better.  It wasn't a complete loss as students got to explore something they can do usually (multiply fractions) but have little understanding of the procedures involved.  This is not a course in arithmetic; that's the prerequisite.  But we know this student is usually very weak on fraction and percent understanding.  So we've incorporated those concepts within other lessons to strengthen their abilities whenever possible.

I almost forgot:  we closed with a very short lesson that incorporated logistics by looking at an academic department's flowchart.  Again, seemingly simple, it wasn't.  There are lots of little details to read and understand to answer the questions.  I always like the activities that incorporate a student success element into the math.  Student success courses that are disconnected from content don't always have much punch.  It means more to discuss ideas related to student success when they directly relate to the content or point in the course.  We're trying to capitalize on that approach and timing whenever possible.

Next up:  integers.

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