Our department goal is to find creative ways to develop and foster a growth mindset in our students. Our school has a very large proportion of unsuccessful students. Many students feel as though math is too difficult, or genetics has blocked their possible success. This is not a phenomenon specific to Tommy Douglas Collegiate. I read Dr. Carol Dweck's book Mindset last year as a part of school book clubs, and found its message intriguing. I coupled this with research I have been doing into Problem Based Learning in Mathematics. The creation of the new "Workplace and Apprenticeship Mathematics" pathway in my province completed the perfect storm of personal learning. All these factors contributed to my brainchild.
A little more explanation needs to go into the pathways in Saskatchewan. Grade 9 math is taken by every student. In Grade 10, there are 2 options--Foundations and Pre-calculus 10 and Workplace and Apprenticeship 10. In Grade 11, FPC10 splits further into 2 pathways--Foundations 20 and Pre-calculus 20. Workplace and Apprenticeship Mathematics 20 is also offered. In Grade 12, all 3 strands are offered at the 30 level along with Calculus 30. The whole idea is for students to take the mathematics that is suited for them and their future.
The Workplace and Apprenticeship pathway (affectionately coined "A&W Math" by my department head) is designed to build skills pertinent in a work setting. The textbooks are designed around unit projects, and the lessons focus on application. Links to the Saskatchewan Curriculum are found below:
I strongly feel that the spirit of the courses require that they be taught in an authentic setting. This feeling, combined with the department initiative and some work with PBL, has begat my vision for how my 3 sections of A&W math ideally will look next semester. My hope is that the reader of this post will contemplate my thoughts and comment on their feasibility. Any feedback from prior experience or similar experience is greatly appreciated.
I want to set up a completely project based environment for the course. This begins with the set-up of the room. Desks are removed and replaced with small, circular tables with 3-4 chairs around each. I have chosen 3 as my optimum group size, but will leave room for special circumstances. My classroom is equipped with a SMART board and I am working on access to a half-pod of netbooks. Unbridled access to internet resources will only fuel the independent feeling I want in the room.
The format of the course will look roughly as follows:
- Every student/group is given a binder with a print out of the curricular objectives in it. The binder includes rubrics, a list of sample projects, and a stock of daily log sheets.
- Students/groups will design/brainstorm projects that fit specific curricular objectives. They will create a project proposal and get it approved by me before they start.
- Each project works on highlighted areas of the curriculum. Their outcomes will be physically highlighted in their binders.
- Every day ends by filling out a daily log sheet which details who was present, what was discussed, decisions that were made, progress to report, and a plan for the future.
- Every project ends with a product. A short presentation (business style) is made to me or the class at the conclusion.
- Students are able to overlap objectives in successive projects to attain a higher grade for that outcome. The grade for that outcome is never fixed; students may always grow in their understanding of a topic.
- Evaluation of each project is based on a rubric (developed in tandem with the group). Self and group evaluation will also play a major role.
- What do I do for students that do not show up for class?
- What about students that complete all goals before the semester ends?
- What percentage of the goals completed can be considered a pass?
- Do I simply check off each outcome, or give a letter grade for how well it was met? Possibly a rubric 0-4?
- How can I possibly control the freedom granted with group netbooks?
- Do I allow very similar projects?
- How large of a scope can a single project encompass?
- How should I handle an in-class topic that needs to be widely clarified?
I look forward to your remarks.