Auditing Your Classrooms for Competence and Status

This past weekend, I had the great pleasure of giving a keynote address at the Mathematics Council of Alberta Teachers (MCATA) Conference.

First things first: @minaclark did sketch notes of my talk!  I am delighted because I have always wanted somebody to do that. She did a fantastic job too.

During the breakout session afterwards, I talked about how we can audit our classrooms to support better interactions. In particular, we need to pay attention to issues of mathematical competence and student status. (I have written a lot on these topics since they are critical to fostering positive relationships between students and the subject. You can read earlier posts here, here, and here.)

Here are my audit questions.

Competence audit:

  • What kinds of competencies are valued in your classroom? Where do students have a chance to show them?
  • Consider the last few activities you have done in your class. Did they provide multiple entry points toward a rich mathematical idea? If not, can you use the table below to adapt them to become a low ceiling/high floor question?
  • When you look at your class roster, can you identify at least one way that every student is mathematically smart?
  • When you think of students who struggle, do they have competencies that you might better support by redesigning some of your class activities?
  • When you think of students who have a history of high achievement, do they value other ways to be smart aside from quick and accurate calculation? Do they value other competencies in themselves? In others?
table

Some low floor-high ceiling question types. (Adapted from Will Stafford’s “Create Debate” Handout)

Status audit:

  • When you think of the students you worry about, how much of their challenge stems from lack of confidence?
  • How much do students recognize the value and contributions of their peers?
  • What small changes could you make to address status problems and support more students in experiencing a sense of competence?

Please feel free to add others or offer your thoughts in the comment section.

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5 thoughts on “Auditing Your Classrooms for Competence and Status

  1. Pingback: Being “Smart” in Science Class – Physics! Blog!

  2. I really appreciate these audit questions, and I think they are questions that teachers should be asking themselves often. One that really stood out to me was the competence audit question, “When you look at your class roster, can you identify at least one way that every student is mathematically smart?” Often students who are observed struggling in math class get written off as students who are bad at all kinds of math all of the time. But I think this question really pushes that stigma, and allows teachers to realize that just because a student does not excel in one math topic, doesn’t mean they “can’t do math”. It is also important to note that sometimes these students have a negative bias towards them, and this audit question allows a teacher to specifically pick something positive out about the student. It is important to celebrate the mathematical accomplishments of all students, no matter how small.

    I also really liked the question, “When you think of students who have a history of high achievement, do they value other ways to be smart aside from quick and accurate calculation? Do they value other competencies in themselves? In others?” These ideals need to be pushed so much in math class, because as a lot of us figure out as you go further in math classes, “real math” (as all of my math professors call it) has nothing to do with calculation; problem solving and critical thinking are more valued in the field and in history. The sooner students realize this, the greater the opportunity for student success.

    Again, really loved this post, as I am a big proponent of improving confidence and the feeling of accomplishment in the math classroom.

    Like

  3. Pingback: mindset, smarts, and strengths – Learning to Teach Science

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