I took a big step in my math class this weekend and started moving toward master learning. We had a geometry test on Friday and had mixed results: a few A’s and B’s, many C’s, and a few D’s and E’s. I am a bit of a perfectionist and I woke up early Saturday, not able to sleep from the students that failed. So I e-mailed the parents and started a new policy: re-takes for tests.
The rationale behind this is simple for me. I believe in mastery learning. My job is to teach the 6th grade mathematics standards. I really don’t care when students learn them. Some of my students “get” it the first day and some of them may not “get” it until after the first test. Why should I punish them because it takes them longer. For a more formal and detailed argument for this approach check out the blogs of Matt Townsley and Becky Goerend who have influenced me a lot on this topic.
So my new policy looks like this (although I still consider it a work in progress): homework will be graded based upon completion, but I am not going to tell students this. I think that will encourage them to give their best effort but not punish them for “mistakes” while learning. Any student who does not do well on a test based upon their self-assessment can re-take a different version of the test after completing further review work and tutoring with me.
This creates more effort for me-new assignments and test have to be created and I will have to find time to re-teach students outside of class, but that is my job and I will make the extra effort to help my students learn.
Will the students make the extra effort to schedule time with me and do extra work? We will see.
Good luck with this! I think you will see that many kids will take advantage of the opportunity, but not all will. Matt and I have had many discussions about where teacher responsibility ends and student responsibility begins. Keep us posted!
I like where you are going and it will take some trial and error.
We adopted a new math program this year and one reason I like it is that it continually retests concepts and allows you to track growth over time in specific subsets. It is something we were trying to do on our own already. Rather than creating separate “make-up” tests we tried to build in reteaching and multiple assesment opportunites to show mastery.
It also allows you to know which groups of students need help in which areas and who needs more of a challenge… No matter how you cut it however it is more work… But it is what the kids need.
Kudos to you for doing this and let us know how it develops
Mastery learning has always fascinated me, I adopted it as my own personal strategy decades ago when I first learned about it and some variant of its principles have always served me well. I’ve never been quite sure if it would work as a general strategy in classes. Good luck with it and keep us posted!!
Thanks for the feedback. I will update on how it goes. Today I had one girl who failed take me up on the offer.