Mistakes, Homework and Autonomy…. #IMMOOC night one takeaways!

While I started this blog months ago with the intent to regularly add my insights and visions of education, the only thing I have been regularly doing is putting off posting.  No more!  I can’t after listening to the opening podcast of #IMMOOC Season 3.  I started listening to it on the way to work which is a 15 minute drive:  45 minutes later I found myself in the parking lot of our building frantically creating notes in my phone, as reflections and responses flooded over me listening to Jo Boaler, George Couros, and Katie Martin.  It was then I realized I didn’t want to blog about this, I had to.  I had to find a way to not lose the passion of the moment I was experiencing.  My takeaways were many but the following 3 were ones I really felt I really needed to expand upon for my own learning:

  1. The importance of the discussion around making mistakes in math (and learning in general) has had many names and faces over the years in classes I have taught.  Students who made it through 8 years of school with the perception that they are not math people.  I had a student just yesterday say to me that she was not good at math.  Because of these persistent attitudes every year, unit, and sometimes even lesson becomes more about shifting perceptions and less about outcomes.  It seems that we have created a “Math”ew Effect (couldn’t resist the pun), where the rich get richer and poor get poorer:  Those who think they CAN, do and those who think they CANT’T……well!  In many ways the challenge with teaching math to students who are “not good at math” is then all about perception.  Getting students excited about making mistakes, leaning into struggle (thanks Amy Fast for framing that thought for me) and engaging in cognitive dissonance has become a fundamental goal in my instructional approach to math.  Listening to Jo Boaler speak, I realized I am on the right path with much of this, but that I still may need to wander further down it!  I ordered her book and look forward to diving deeper into this shortly.
  2. Homework… has there ever been a practice that was more misunderstood in education?  Alfie Kohn certainly thinks not and makes a compelling argument for discontinuing the practice in his book The Homework Myth.   Further, in one of the most extensive educational research projects of all time, John Hattie found the impact size of homework on student growth to be negligible for younger students and minimal for older ones.  Yet, when I program for my own students with these ideals in mind I am questioned by many.  I can’t help but wonder how may students I wrote about earlier that “aren’t good at math” had positive experiences with math homework? My guess would be none… In this light, Boaler’s assertion of homework being a cause of inequity seems quite apt!
  3. Lately I have been very vocal in my assertion that autonomy needs to be returned to teachers.  Decisions for students need to be made by those closest to them!  Unfortunately I have noticed a trend where those decisions are being made further and further away from the classroom.  I feel Couros’ idea of innovating inside a box is an important stop gap measure while we advocate and wait for the right to make more decisions that matter to our students on our own.  The irony of this situation is many of those decisions have been outsourced to try and increase teacher accountability but in many ways it has created the opposite.  Teachers, are far less invested in the decisions of others than of ones they come to on their own.  Voice and choice are essential in all areas of education and when teachers have decisions made for them is there any wonder why some pose their passion?  I believe a reclamation of teacher autonomy is vital and practices discussed by Boaler, Martin and Couros are a great place to start.

If this is the level of enriched learning I can expect from #IMMOOC Season 3, I cannot wait what’s still to come!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *