Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Learning by mistakes and reflecting on my current practices

For those that have read my articles you would see that my first draft is usually full of typing and grammatical mistakes which over a few days and my re-reading become able to be read without cringing. This need for self correction was drummed into me as an adult by a colleague and it has stuck with me through teaching.

All too often I receive work from students that is clearly a first draft. This is clearly not acceptable as first draft work is incomplete - next year I intend on informing students that I will be handing such work back as 'not being finished within the deadline' and thus invoking non-completion of assignment consequences.

In mathematics, the trend to assess outcomes has drawn attention away from mathematical technique - such as one equals sign to a line and recording working such that patterns of thought can be read within answers. I intend on looking at this more closely next term, making clearer my expectations and then ensuring that these expectations are adhered to. I will need to investigate further for my next topic what is commonly accepted as good notation (as my notation may not be perfect) and clearly communicate this to students.

Furthermore, I have noticed a worrying trend of students not using notes and worked examples as the first point of query during classwork, nor are they effectively questioning peers when they have a question. All too often I feel I am being used as an instant repository of information (perhaps as a ready replacement for internet instant answers). I need to discourage to some degree questioning of the teacher, prepare better modelled lessons and encourage independent and collaborative learning.

I have noticed that students are not delaying rounding to the last calculation. In many cases the rounding operation itself is also being completed incorrectly. This is poor technique and I need to address this with many of my top students.

I did a lot of work with my students to ensure that all work was self-checked for accuracy and correctness (eg. self marking from the back of the book). Many thought that looking at answers was "cheating" rather than a necessary indicator that an error was occurring. I had to show students that investigation into the cause of an error was also necessary. I need to further encourage students to investigate their errors and help them feel rewarded when investigating and solving their own issues independently.

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