Project Management: Agency

Agency is developing a growth mindset over time and taking ownership of one’s learning.  Systems that scaffold agency promote:

  • Growth Mindset Culture
  • Student Generated Next Steps
  • Growth of Students’ Self Knowledge and Related Strategies
  • Development of Students’ Organization Skills over Time


Growth Mindset Culture


Growth Mindset Activities

It it worthwhile to spend the first week of school doing activities that jumpstart a growth mindset culture.  To see specific activities relating to mathematics that promote growth mindset, visit the Week of Inspirational Math activities.   Also, you can check out this related blog article.


Norm Building Activities

One worthwhile first week activity is to have students work together to brainstorm and refine classroom norms that promote growth mindset.  In the CINGHS Algebra 2 and Integrated Physics & Engineering classes, the students generated norms that focused on the school’s Core Values: integrity, responsibility, perseverance, trust and respect.  To see a sample set of norms, check out the linked image below:


Norms in Team Contracts

Throughout the year, Dr. Trinidad has students reflect on the norms by selecting 3 norms each project to unpack and focus on in their team contracts.  



Student Generated Next Steps


Next Steps Prompts

Students who take ownership of their own learning know how to generate, enact and track next steps and they know how to request help from teachers as needed.  Teachers can cultivate these skills by designing prompts that ask students to:

  • Request workshops related to Need-to-Knows
  • Plan next steps related to project feedback
  • Plan next steps related to making up late work or revising project work.


Zap Chart

The following ZAP (Zeroes Aren’t Possible) chart was used by students to analyze what assignments they needed to improve in order to bring up their grades.  The chart also helped them to set-up a plan to make up that work over the course of one school week.


Growth of Students’ Self Knowledge and Related Strategies


Learning Style Inventory Quizzes

Early in the school year, students taking math classes at CINGHS take a learning style inventory quiz to identify their top learning styles.  Then they research strategies that go with their top learning styles.  The quiz results and the suggested strategies are stored in the front of their interactive math notebooks.


Agency Self-Assessments & Reflections

Students can use Agency rubrics to reflect on their strengths and challenges in regard to agency.  They can submit their agency scores via Google form to a teacher who can use the data to identify class-wide strengths and gaps.  The teachers can use this analysis to design activities that help students overcome their agency challenges.  These activities can encourage students to:

  • reflect on the  things they may gain by trying new things in their agency gaps
  • brainstorm and research strategies that can help them overcome agency gaps
  • set and meet agency goals that counteract agency gaps


Heat Maps

After benchmarks, students complete Heat Maps (see linked example below).  Students color in boxes that correspond to correct responses on the benchmarks.  The boxes are arranged into categories that enable students to see patterns that show their academic strengths and their gaps.  Students can use this knowledge to request workshops and activities that help them overcome their gaps.


3 Color Practice Tests

Prior to taking tests, students in Dr. Trinidad’s math and physics classes take a 3 Color practice test.  They take the practice test under test conditions (independently and silently) using their first color.  Then, they change colors and use their notebooks to add responses and corrections to their answer sheet.  Then, they use the final color to correct their practice test work using a test key.  The colors applied to each problem help students to understand what types of problems they need to study (or not) while preparing for upcoming tests.


Access to Practice Set Keys

Students in Dr. Trinidad’s math and science classes are assigned practice sets that are always due at the end of school weeks.  When students finish practice sets early, they can request practice set keys and use a second color to correct their work.  Dr. Trinidad grades this corrected work as if it’s perfect work because she values the lessons students learn when they compare their work to model work.


Development of Students’ Organization Skills over Time


Notebook Organization

Students taking science and math at CINGHS maintain detailed interactive notebooks.  To help students access the information in their notebooks, teachers regularly teach students how to update notebook tables of contents that show where all notebook resources are located in the notebooks.


Project Google Folders

Students also learn how to organize electronic versions of their student work by following course standards for maintaining Google folders.  In Algebra 2 and Integrated Physics and Engineering, students are required to have course folders that contain sub-folders that are dedicated to each project in the courses.


Graphic Organizers

To further help students organize their student work, teacher ofen design graphic organizers that help students organize the their workshop notes and their research.  See linked examples:



195: PBL Tips on Managing the Process





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At project start, make sure students are on the right track:
  • Help students brainstorm next steps (such as research plans) prior to beginning those processes
  • Hold early private meetings with teams while the rest work on other assignments (ex: background reading assignment) to vet and give feedback on their next steps and research questions
  • Require deliverables with early work sessions to make sure students are making progress and gaining momentum
  • Provide milestones, benchmarks and templates to support students in managing projects
Tailor grouping strategies to project needs:
  • Vary out grouping methods: student choice, teacher choice, random draw, etc
  • Aim for heterogeneous groups that team up students who are advanced with students who struggle
  • Grouping friends together works well with projects that require a lot of work outside class time
  • If a project requires a lot of different skills, may aim to form teams that include students who have those skills as a whole when combined in teams
  • Mixed method – students choose pairs and then teacher chooses which pairs to combine into teams of 4
  • Make grouping appear random even when it is actually very deliberate
  • Expert -> jigsaw teams – expert teams become very verses in 1 topic and then jigsaw teams are formed to include one of each type of expert
  • Use knowledge of students to create balanced teams
  • Sometimes when students choose their own teams end up with several strong teams and several unfocused teams
  • Could make students apply to be on teams
  • Have students conduct a team inventory of their skills and compare that to the skills needed to complete the project – if there is a mismatch they can lobby to switch team members to better align their team’s skills to the project
  • Fake Autonomy – group all students into 3-4 colors.  Students who should not work together share the same color.  Ask students to form teams that include one student of each color
  • Can have students submit 1st and 2nd choice for partners and try to honor their requires while forming balanced teams
  • Can have students rank their interests from a list of topics and form teams based on common interests
Plan how to accommodate the needs of diverse students
  • Plan in remediation time for students who don’t get it the first couple times
  • Have students develop a portfolio that crosses projects so they can access resources throughout the year
  • Use knowledge of students to provide different types / levels of support to different students
  • Students can get help from teachers, other students, the library, the internet, etc.
  • Try to allow for time for students to work with their friends or work on a topic they are interested in
  • For more on differentiating for various needs, see this article: Clustering student needs for more efficient planning
Intervene with students who are not carrying their own weight:
  • Sometimes let teams go through the firing process and then the student needs to work alone.  Or that students can produce a body of work and apply for a rehire from another team.
  • For teams that complain about team members not working, facilitate a meeting to renegotiate and tighten timelines.  Add more details to timelines including action item descriptions, action item owners, and specific deadlines.
  • Inform parents when their child is missing checkpoints and brainstorm together how to improve students’ project and self management skills.
  • Have individuals and teams reflect on group processes so they can become more aware and communicate to each other and the teacher about their group concerns and problems.
  • Brainstorm with teams who are stuck or off task on ways to become more motivated and focused.
Keep track of each group’s progress
  • Move a lot! Use the proximity effect (location matters more than content) to coach students working in teams
  • Set clear benchmarks and deadlines and have quick touch-in meetings to check on teams’ progress and answer questions and concerns
  • Let students complete a project planning form and then have a review meeting around that form.
  • Use checklists or 3×5 cards to record group observations
  • Instruct teams to maintain group folders that include all their logs and product artifacts.
Make sure groups keep track of their own progress
  • Instruct groups to meet and record who attended the meeting, what was accomplished, the meeting agenda, data, location
Keep public records of group progress:
  • Maintain a public accountability chart that shoes what benchmarks teams have completed – make this a graphic display that everyone can see
  • Allow time at the start and end of work days to set and track team goals
The Internet is only one information resources.  Students often need help to use it efficiently
  • Use school librarian as a project partner
  • Provide students with a starter list of helpful websites
  • Teach students how to analyze the content of websites and evaluate whether or not they possess the prerequisite knowledge to understanding the web content
  • Teach students how to evaluate the validity and quality of web sources
Technology can be a powerful tool; it can also crash and burn.
  • Trial and troubleshoot tech before using it in a project
  • Identify people who can help you troubleshoot technology
Don’t use tech blindly.  Select tech that enhances student learning
  • Select tech that addresses the meat of the project effectively
  • Before using a tool ask: What can be accomplished by this tool?  Can we do this using simpler tools?
  • Allow time to train students how to use selected technology.
  • Use tech only when it is appropriate and enhances student learning.
Don’t be afraid to make mistake
  • When mistakes are made, model how to fail forward by brainstorming solutions with students
Don’t be afraid of making mid project corrections
  • When students are missing essential info, let students know how / when class will get together to fill in the gap
  • Rethink timelines if you realize that students can’t meet the original timeline or are ready and willing to do more
  • When problems arise, hold a class meeting to debrief the situation and brainstorm and select solutions
  • Renegotiate expectations with teams that run into unexpected obstacles – focus new expectations on what’s critical to learn
Debrief project with your class and ask for project feedback
  • 2 questions:
    • What is of lasting value to the learner as a result of completing this project?
    • What is of lasting value to the community as a result of completing this project?
  • Show students models of good reflection before they start generating reflective comments.
  • Ask students
    • what didn’t work and why and possible alternatives?
    • what the fell they did well in the project?
    • what they feel didn’t go well?
    • what grade do they deserve and why?
    • are you proud of your end product?
    • how could end product be better?
  • Could gather feedback on overall project and specific end products on sticky notes
  • Keep student and teacher notes on project improvements in a secure place
  • Processing time is well worthwhile – set aside time for it
Reflecting on the Driving Question
  • Reflect on the driving question to review content and hopefully make long lasting learning connections


Effective (poor) project management can make (break) a project.  Students need support developing skills related to self- and project-management.  Setting aside time to scaffold these skills and using templates to reinforce / guides these skills will make students more effective at learning within PBL projects.


Preparation Steps
  • Analyze standards and create related list of academic learning targets.
  • Create project products and expectations.  Create an inventory of skills students need to have to be successful in the project.
  • Create character learning targets that are skills in the inventory that students may not have yet.
  • Design scaffolding and templates for character learning targets.
  • Select and troubleshoot technology that advances learning
Early Implementation Steps
  • Set aside time in projects to scaffold character learning targets.
  • Provide feedback on templates that scaffold project and self management process in touch-in meetings
  • Provide opportunities for students to set and track their goals throughout the project
  • Facilitate a post-project reflection discussion to gather feedback on what worked and alternatives to problems
  • Use variety of grouping methods that enhance project goals
  • Select and use technology that advances student learning; scaffold the tech
  • Intervene / support teams / individual students who are struggling
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Ask upperclassmen to coach / mentor students in project management skills
  • Ask experienced students to design their own project planning forms
  • Use tech to update group accountability charts in real time

191: 3 PBL Student Briefs





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The following briefs can be used to help students self-manage their project tasks:
Student Planning Brief
  • The overall challenge that defines this project is …
  • I / we intend to investigate:
  • I need to complete the following activities:
    • What will I / we do?
    • How will I / we do it?
    • Date due
  • I / we need the following resources and support:
  • At the end of the project, I / we will demonstrate learning by:
    • What?
    • How?
    • Who and where?
Student Product Brief
  • What product do I / we want to construct?
  • What research do I / we need to conduct?
  • What are my / our responsibilities for this product?
  • I / we expect to learn the following from working on this product:
  • I / we will demonstrate what we’ve learned by:
  • I / we wil complete the product by:
Student Presentation Brief
  • What will the audience learn from my presentation?
  • What part am I responsible for?
  • My plan to make a successful presentation:
  • I expect to learn the following from making this presentation:
  • Specific skills I plan to work on are:
  • I need the following technology / equipment for my presentation:
  • I need the following visuals for my presentation:


The student briefs in this article help students plan out their tasks related to project, products, and presentations.  They also help students reflect on the learning goals related to these tasks.  Using one or more of these briefs can help teachers provide feedback to students on their project / product / presentation plans, check that their learning goals match the intended learning targets, and address students problems and concerns in a timely manner


Preparation Steps
  • Set character learning targets for students that specific describe effective behaviors related to good project management
  • Select and adapt the design brief that most closely supports your selected  learning targets.
  • Develop an exemplar version of the student brief you plan to implement
Early Implementation Steps
  • Model how to use student brief using think aloud protocol and exemplar.
  • Set aside class time for students to complete the briefs and for teachers to provide face-to-face feedback on the briefs.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Incorporate selected student brief into classroom routines
  • Use student feedback to refine student brief prompts and formatting
  • Analyze trends in student briefs to identify students’ strengths and gaps.  Design scaffolding related to gaps.

174: Assessing Metacognition (4 of 4)



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  1. Everyday Ethical Dilemmas
    • Description
      • Students respond briefly and anonymously to abbreviated case studies with moral dilemmas that relate to the course
    • Purpose
      • Students identify and clarify their own values and how these relate to moral dilemmas of the course
      • Students learn how values impact decision making
    • Step-by-Step Procedure
      • Decide on one specific ethical issue to focus on.
      • Locate a short case that illustrates the essential ethical dilemma in a few lines.
      • Write 2-3 questions that require students to take a position in the case and explain their reasoning for their decision.
      • Ask students to write short anonymous responses.
      • Allow time in class or outside class to complete the assessment.
    • Analysis Steps
      • Separate papers based on the position they took and tally responses.
      • Within each pile of similar responses, look for patterns in their rationales for their responses.
      • Share interesting insights and patterns with students and discuss implications of these for the course.
    • Extension Ides
      • After students have submitted responses, have students discuss the issues in small groups.  Then have them complete the assessment again to see if decisions and rationales changed.
      • Classify responses according to course frameworks or framework that describe ethical development.  See Perry’s schemes of intellectual and ethical development for ideas.
      • Ask students to answer cases from 2 different viewpoints.
      • Assign students task of creating Everyday Ethical Dilemmas for the class to analyze and discuss.
    • Pros
      • Students practice thinking through ethical dilemmas and get feedback on these processes.
      • Gathers data that helps teachers develop students’ ethical reasoning skills.
    • Cons
      • Students who are fixed in their opinions may see this exercise as a waste of time.
      • Teachers may lose respect for students based on their opinions.
    • Caveats
      • Start with minor dilemmas and work your way up.  This gradual buildup can build up trust, confidence and skill.
  2. Course-Related Self-Confidence Surveys
    • Description
      • Students answer questions that assess their self-confidence in relationship to course specific skills and activities.
    • Purpose
      • Knowledge of skills that students feel confidence with (and not) can help teachers design learning experiences that better support students
      • Can help students set up positive feedback loops – i.e. they can focus on skills they need which will build competence and confidence
    • Step-by-Step Procedure
      • Focus on skills or abilities that are important to success in a course
      • Make up questions to assess students’ competence or confidence in these specific skills
      • Create a simple survey form for gathering the data
      • Gather responses anonymously during class time
    • Analysis Steps
      • Tally responses to questions.  If this is done in Google forms, this tallying can be done quickly in Google spreadsheets.
    • Extension Ides
      • Have students discuss the skills in teams and brainstorm methods to build confidence or competence in each skill.
      • Ask follow-up questions to identify what classroom variables most influence confidence and how these can be changed to promote confidence
    • Pros
      • Can identify what students are confident and anxious about in terms of course-specific skills
      • Can offer relief to students to see that others struggle in areas where they struggle
      • Teaches students that self-confidence helps with learning
    • Cons
      • Some students are overconfident about their skills and therefore are harder to teach
      • Discovery of low self esteem may hurt teacher and student morale
    • Caveats
      • Teach students to associate confidence with performance so that their confidence can increase as they start to demonstrate more skill
      • Be aware that some serious problems with self esteem won’t be remedied by the course
The Everyday Ethical Dilemmas assessments can reveal how students reason through ethical dilemmas that relate to the course.  Making students aware of these controversial cases can help students see the value in content-specific information and skills that can be applied to analyze and evaluate the case.


The Course-Related Self Confidence Surveys can help students and teachers be aware of what skills student’s feel are strengths and what skills they may struggle with.  Knowing this profile for the students in the course can help teachers reframe projects and project scaffolding to leverage student strengths and to improve upon student gaps.


Preparation Steps
  • Decide what you like to learn about students’ skills.
  • Decide what strategy will yield the knowledge about students’ skills you want.
  • Develop resources related the selected strategy.  See above for details.
Early Implementation Steps
  • .Explain the purpose for the assessment.
  • Give students time in class to complete the assessment.
  • Analyze the assessment.
  • Share key results from analyzing the assessment with students and facilitate a related discussion with students.
  • Describe how key results will impact future teaching and learning in the course.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Try out the enrichment activities described above.
  • Use knowledge gained from the assessments to refine related project scaffolding so that it better meets students’ needs.

173: Assessing Metacognition (3 of 4)

  1. Classroom Opinion Polls
    • Description
      • Students complete anonymous polls of their opinions
    • Purpose
      • Discover student opinions related to course-related issues
      • Helps students become aware of opinions that can support or hinder learning
      • Teachers can get advance information that can help him or her better frame course-related issues
    • Step-by-Step Procedure
      • Preview upcoming materials and search for issues that may have related opinions that can affect learning.
      • Choose 1-2 issues to convert to Classroom Opinion Poll questions.
      • Create a polling electronic form or paper form.  Tools for electronic forms: Socrative, Nearpod, PollEveryhwere, Mentimeter
      • Administer the assessment.  Remind students not to put their names on the paper forms if you use these.
    • Analysis Steps
      • Count and tally responses.
      • Electronic tools (see above) will count and tally responses automatically.
    • Extension Ides
      • Ask students to justify their responses.
      • Have students write rebuttals for opinions different than their own.
      • Let students come up with polling questions.
    • Pros
      • Low floor task that is accessible to all
      • Showing poll results helps students acknowledge the diversity of opinions in the class
      • Teachers gain info that can help refine/reframe future lessons
    • Cons
      • May find that students are opposed to using evidence to justify opinions
      • Students may find it difficult to commit to a response
    • Caveats
      • Be prepared to discuss issues related to opinion polls
      • Gather assessment data anonymously
      • Model respectful consideration of varied opinions
      • May opt to summarize data in private in order to hide reactions to unexpected surprises in the data
  2. Double Entry Journals
    • Description
      • Students take notes in 2 columns.  On one column that write key ideas, assertions and arguments learned during activity.  In the other column they explain the personal significance of those ideas and ask questions of the ideas.
    • Purpose
      • Detailed feedback on how students read, analyze and respond to assigned texts
      • Teachers learn what students value in the text
      • Students learn about how course issues relates to issues in their personal lives
      • Students become more aware of how they read and respond to texts
    • Step-by-Step Procedure
      • Select important parts of text to be annotated.  Should be short, challenging and provocative.
      • Show students how to setup notebook page for the strategy.
      • Model how to use the strategy by getting the annotations started on both columns while thinking aloud.
        • on left column – copy key quotes and passages from the text
        • on right column – explain why they chose each excerpt – could include agreements, disagreements, questions etc
        • encourage 2 columns to interact like a dialogue
    • Analysis Steps
      • Compare students’ left column to key points in the text
      • Try to categorize the types of responses that appear in the right column
    • Extension Ides
      • Let students do a double entry journal on a lecture – provide recording of the lecture
      • May offer 2-3 excerpts for them to interpret and have them add a couple more items in the right column
      • Use as first step in a bigger writing assignment – write an essay based on double entry journal
      • After they’ve done this several times, get students to look over several double entry journals and notice patterns in the types of excerpts they choose to include
    • Pros
      • Student practice careful reading and responding to texts
      • Encourages students to look for personal meanings in texts
    • Cons
      • Students may try to write for the teacher instead of candidly write for themselves
      • Students may struggle with this strategy at first
    • Caveats
      • Importance to distinguish between lack of skill with this note-taking strategy and lack of awareness
      • Students may need a lot of coaching before students start genuinely sharing their opinions
  3. Profiles of Admirable Individuals
    • Description
      • Students write a brief focused profile of an individual in a field related to the course whose values, skills and/or actions they admire
    • Purpose
      • Teachers learn what students value
      • Students acknowledge what they value in professions related to the course
    • Step-by-Step Procedure
      • Try out strategy yourself – write a profile for an admirable individual for a course.
      • Decide what criteria you will use to assess the profiles.
      • Develop clear instructions for profiles.  Be sure to include length limits and to define what populations students can draw their people from
    • Analysis Steps
      • Notice the characteristics and values that appear repeatedly in students’ profiles.  Tally these.
    • Extension Ides
      • Provide a list of people who students can write profiles for in case they can’t come up with a person.
      • Have students rank the characteristics in their profiles in order from most to least important.
      • Have students write parallel profiles of people who are not admirable and explain their negative appraisals.
      • Have students work in teams to read each other’s appraisals and come up with a composite list of admirable characteristics.
    • Pros
      • Requires students to consider their own values.
      • Teachers can learn about role models who have influenced students.
    • Cons
      • May make some students uncomfortable.
      • May need to do research to identify people for profiles.
      • Specifying admirable characteristics of individuals can be challenging.
    • Caveats
      • Keep assessments anonymous
      • Model how to write good profiles that elaborate on individual’s admirable qualities
      • If students chose someone you’ve never heard of, remembers that identifying the admirable qualities is more important than knowing the role model


All 3 of these strategies have students notice and share personal connections they are making with course.  Making personal connections with course materials is one powerful way to motivate students and to help them remember new content.


Classroom opinion polls can help teachers identify student opinions that may help or hinder learning in the course.  The double entry journal can help teachers see what students value in assigned texts and why they value these.  The profiles of admirable individuals can help teachers see what positive characteristics students see and value in professionals who relate to the course.


Preparation Steps
  • Identify what you would like to learn about students’ beliefs, ideas, etc.
  • Identify the strategy that would most readily access the information you’d like to learn about students.
  • Create resources that go with the selected strategy.  See above for details.
Early Implementation Steps
  • Describe how to complete the assessment.  Provide early coaching in the from of modeling if needed.
  • Give students time to complete the assessment inside or outside of class.
  • Analyze the assessment to look for interesting patterns and comparisons.  Compare these with course character learning targets
  • Share insights from analyzing the assessment with the class.  Facilitate discussions related to these insights.
  • Describe to students how these insights will impact future teaching and learning in the course.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Try out some of the extension activities.  See above.
  • Use knowledge of students to reframe upcoming projects and scaffolding activities to more closely engage with students’ interests and values.



172: Assessing Metacognition (2 of 4)





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  1. Goal Ranking and Matching
    • Description
      • Students list a few learning goals they have for the course and rank their importance and difficulty.
    • Purpose
      • Measures degree of fit between student and teacher goals
      • Can be used to create shared class goals
      • Students identify and clarify their learning goals
      • Students connect their learning goals with course goals
    • Step-by-Step Procedure
      • Clarify instructional goals for the course.  This can be down by writing long term character learning targets for the course.
      • Assess negotiability and flexibility of character learning targets – are you willing to change these in response to knowing students’ goals?  If not, don’t use use this assessment.
      • Ask students to list 3 to 5 specific goals they have for the course.  Eliminate common answers such as: to do well in the course, to complete course requirements.
      • Direct students to rank goals from most to least important.  May need to model this step.
      • (Time allowing) Direct students to rank goals from most to least difficult.
      • Collect the responses and tells students what data will be used for and when you will discuss related analyses.
    • Analysis Steps
      • Categorize responses with similar goals.  What goals are most common?
      • Can tally up the number of votes that go with each type of goal.
      • Decide whether or not to incorporate student goals into course goals.
      • Compare student goals to course goals.
    • Extension Ides
      • Ask students to rank goals by amount of time needed to reach these.
      • Have students complete the assessment in teams
      • Do follow-up assessment mid-course and end-of-course.  Look for changes in student goals.  More specific? More realistic?
      • Can have students plot learning goals on an importance difficulty matrix so they can label goals as: targeted, high value, strategic and luxurious
    • Pros
      • Students become aware of how their learning goals (or lack of) connect to the course
      • Assess overlap in teacher and student goals
      • Nice conversation starter for course goals and aims
    • Cons
      • Students may struggle to articulate their own goals
      • Students are not used to critiquing course goals
      • Students may get discouraged by mismatches in student and teacher goals
    • Caveats
      • Being aware of goals takes practice
      • Don’t ask if you don’t want to know
      • Don’t hesitate to compare/contrast teacher and student goals (be transparent)
      • Make an effort to respond to student goals in some way
  2. Self-Assessment of Ways of Learning
    • Description
      • Students compare themselves to profiles to identify their preferred ways of learning
    • Purpose
      • Assess students’ preferring learning styles and modes
      • Teachers can use approaches that match students’ learning styles
      • Students realize their learning styles and can make choices that make learning more efficient for them
    • Step-by-Step Procedure
      • Select a framework for describing learning styles and preferences.
      • Determine main categories within selected framework.
      • Create profiles of learners that fit different types in the framework.
      • Design prompts that will have students identify their affinity for one (or more) of the learning profiles and explain their affinity
      • Create a 1 page handout with assessment questions and related profiles.
      • Trial the form.
      • Administer the assessment.
    • Analysis Steps
      • Tally up responses for each type of profile.
      • Show data summary to the class and lead discussion on implications of the data summary on future instruction and learning.
    • Extension Ides
      • Organize class debate teams by grouping together students with similar learning profiles.
      • Asks students to identify pros and cons of their preferred learning type
      • Ask students how someone in their style would approach a learning task
      • Organize study groups that mix up students with different learning styles
    • Pros
      • Students learn to acknowledge multiple learning styles
      • Students become more aware of preferred learning style
      • Students may experiment with different learning styles
      • Teacher can gain quick insight into learning styles without using complicated inventories
    • Cons
      • Students with multiple styles may oversimplify their preferences by having to choose one
    • Caveats
      • Treat learning styles as tendencies, not absolute prerequisites.
      • Learning styles can be context dependent
      • Allow students to make relative choices to describe their preferences


These assessments can help teachers gather information on students’ learning goals and learning styles.  Knowing either or both of these can help teachers refine their course goals to better connect with students.  Knowing the predominant learning styles in a class can help teachers select activities and assessments that favor those learning styles.  Knowing students’ learning goals can help teachers engage students by alerting them to activities and goals that overlap with their goals.


Preparation Steps
  • Decide what information you would like to gather about students’ learning.  Decide how you will use that information.
  • Select the strategy that will harvest the information you want most.
  • Create a handout that goes with the selected strategy.  See above for details.
  • Share with students how you will use the information gathered by the assessment.
Early Implementation Steps
  • Administer the assessment.
  • Analyze the assessment – look for interesting patterns and comparisons.
  • Share results with the class and their impact on future instruction and learning.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Implement some of the extension ideas described above.
  • Use student data to refine overall course goals, lesson formats, and project products.

171: Assessing Metacognition (1 of 4)





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  1. Focused Autobiographical Sketches
    • Description
      • Students write a 1 to 2 page autobiographical sketch about a past successful learning experience that may be relevant to a current course
    • Purpose
      • Can help teachers set realistic executives and objectives based on knowledge of students
      • Provides starting line info on how to assess learning
      • Build feelings of self efficacy associated with a course
    • Step-by-Step Procedure
      • Find an element of learning experiences to focus on that relates to course goals and objectives.
      • Can limit still further by limiting the life areas (personal, work, academic) and time periods autobiographical sketches can be drawn from.
      • Determine criteria that will be used to assess the sketches.  Make sure prompt will direct students to create sketches that relate to assessment criteria.
      • Design a prompt that ties to focus & assessment criteria of assignment.
      • Assign prompt to students.
    • Analysis Steps
      • Scan responses and read for stories that relate to course goals.  Try to notice stories and lessons that can be shared to give students advice on how to succeed in the course.
    • Extension Ides
      • Ask students to explain why they deemed their experiences to be successful.
      • After trust is established, ask students to write a Focused Autobiographic Sketch about lessons learned from personal failures.
      • Ask students to focus on story from the point of view of someone else involved.
    • Pros
      • Focused prompts give teachers info on students that’s more relevant to the course than general background statements.
      • Give info on range of past learning experiences and self awareness of students.
    • Cons
      • No simple guidelines for assessing the quality of this assessment.
      • Reading and analyzing sketches takes a lot of time.
    • Caveats
      • Students may need coaching on writing self-reflective prose before this assessment can yield good information.
      • Some students may balk at sharing their stories, even if done anonymously.
  2. Interest / Knowledge / Skills Checklists
    • Description
      • Students respond to checklists to communicate their interests and levels of related skills
    • Purpose
      • Inform teachers of students’ interest in course-related topics and students’ levels of related skills
      • Teachers can use data above to adjust syllabi
    • Step-by-Step Procedure
      • Divide a paper into two columns.  On one column list course topics.  On other column list related skills.
      • Come up with a simple form that will help you code students’ answers.  Examples:  use checklist with Likert scale response per item
      • Let students know why you are gathering data on their interests and skills.  Can keep surveys anonymous.
    • Analysis Steps
      • Can generate bar graphs that show average Likert responses per item.
      • If the surveys are submitted via Google form these bar charts can be created in Google spreadsheets
      • Share interesting data trends and features with students
    • Extension Ides
      • Ask students to explain why they are interested (not interested in) top (bottom) 3 topics
      • Use a graphic display to show overlap between student interests and course goals
    • Pros
      • Gives teachers access to data that helps with course planning
      • Teacher can compare students’ self perceived competencies with his or her own observations
      • Having students be explicit about their interests and skills and how they relate to the course will help them be more self-aware
    • Cons
      • Sizable front end investment to create checklists and analysis tools
      • Results may show that students’ interests do not align well with current course goals
    • Caveats
      • Students may lack interest in topics due to ignorance.  They may develop an interest when they learn more.
      • Assessments may be more a measure of self-confidence than prior learning.


Getting to know students is a key step in building positive relationships with students that can promote deeper learning.  The strategies above can help teachers harvest information on students’ habits, motivations, interests and skills.  Teachers who use this data to improve their course design are more likely to create and facilitate engaging projects for students.


Preparation Steps
  • Determine what you would like to learn about your students as learners – what information could help you design better projects and interventions?
  • Decide which format (Focused Autobiographical Sketch or Interest/Knowledge/Skills Checklists) will more readily yield the information you want.
  • Design prompts or forms that go with the selected strategy.
  • Decide how you will analyze the data gathered by the selected strategy.
Early Implementation Steps
  • Explain why you want students to complete the selected assessment.  Explain how it will inform your teaching and course design.
  • Give students time to complete the assessment – in class or out of class.
  • Analyze patterns and trends in students’ responses.
  • Share interesting stories, patterns and trends with students and explain how these connect to course goals.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Let students complete assessment at the start and beginning of the course to see if habits, skills, and/or interests change.
  • Try out one of the extension ideas described above.



170: Assessing Academic Behaviors & Skills (2 of 2)





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  1. Process Analysis
    • Description
      • Students record the steps they take to carry out an assignment and comment on any conclusions they draw about their approaches to the task.
    • Purpose
      • Gathers explicit detailed information on the steps students take to complete an assignment
      • Can help students pinpoint issues in how they work and help them improve on these
      • Teachers can learn what steps in assignments are giving students the most trouble
      • Good for noticing and improving habits that relate to completing routine assignments
    • Step-by-Step Procedure
      • Select an assignment that meets these criteria
        • complex enough to warrant recording steps in a Process Analysis
        • you are genuinely interested in how students work through it
        • focusing on this activity will teach students lessons that can apply in future similar assignments
      • Describe what students will record:
        • steps to complete an assignment &
        • time spent on each step
      • Give students access to example Process Analysis records to show them how to record steps.
      • Assign a task to be logged with the Process Analysis and direct students to complete the task along with the associated Process Analysis
      • Collect Process Analysis along with assignment.
    • Analysis Steps
      • Read assignments first and grade without looking at Process Analyses.
      • In Process Analyses
        • assess overall work schemes for clarity and explicitness
        • the number of steps taken
        • effectiveness of each step
        • similarities & differences among students’ analyses in number, content, and order of steps
        • identify patterns between process steps and levels of performance on assignment
    • Extension Ideas
      • To make them easier to analyze, divide class into groups and stagger when each group completes Process Analyses
      • Have students use Process Analyses to compare notes on how they worked
      • Direct students to focus on only one stage of the process in their discussions (beginning, middle or end)
      • Ask students to focus on one step they would like to add or improve in their next assignment.
    • Pros
      • Focus on process is transferable to other assignments
      • Focus on steps allows students to break down, add, improve specific steps in order to improve overall process
      • Teachers can see if students are implementing steps they are taught to take to complete assignments such as term papers
      • Can uncover productive strategies that can be shared among students
    • Cons
      • Students may resist or struggle to complete the Process Analysis
      • Teachers may find that quality of processes do not always correlate with quality of end products
      • Time consuming to analyze these.  (Note – if these are submitted via Google form, can use pivot tables, sorting, and conditional formatting to speed through analyses of these)
    • Caveats
      • Don’t make process to laborious.  Ask for an outline of steps taken, not a narrative.
      • May need to model how to document steps for students who aren’t used to this.
      • Student who could benefit most from this analysis may be the most unwilling to do it.
  2. Diagnostic Learning Logs
    • Description
      • Students maintain a log for assignments and learning activities.  After learning activities they make lists of key points learned and things that were unclear.  For assignments, they lists problems encountered or errors made and successful responses.
    • Purpose
      • Students identify their own strengths and weaknesses as learners
      • Students can diagnose and suggest and test remedies for their learning difficulties
      • Students develop skills needed to become independent learners
      • Teachers learn more about students strengths and weaknesses that can improve their coaching of students through difficulties
    • Step-by-Step Procedure
      • Explain to students that they will logging information about their academic successes and struggles and the benefits of being aware of these.  The main benefit is that the greater awareness can also lead to better ideas to improve upon processes used to overcome struggles.
      • Provide them with a simple format.  See below:
        • After a learning session:
          • List the main points you learn from the session.  Give examples where possible.
          • List points that are unclear to you.  Give examples where possible.
          • Write a few questions that relate to the unclear points.
        • Homework assignment:
          • Briefly describe the assignment.  What is it about?
          • Give 2 examples of successful responses. What made them successful?
          • Give 1-2 examples of less successful responses.  What errors or ommissions did you make?
          • The next time you confront a similar situation what could you do to increase your learning?
    • Analysis Steps
      • Can categorize assessment using
        • Don’t identify successful and unsuccessful responses
        • Identifies successes and struggles but does not diagnose them.
        • Identifies and diagnoses, but doesn’t offer solutions
        • Identifies, diagnoses and offers solutions
      • Record types of questions students are raising and types of problems they identify
      • What is range of responses students use to describe their own learning?
    • Extension Ideas
      • To make them easier to analyze, divide class into groups and stagger when each group completes the logs
      • Ask students to focus logs on the learning of specific key topics
    • Pros
      • Develop more independent, active, self-reflective learners
      • Protocol can be transferred to any academic situation
      • Provides teachers with assessable, classifiable data on students’ metacognition
      • Can provide insights that improve student learning
    • Cons
      • Requires a lot of time and effort from teachers and students
      • Attention to failures may demoralize students.  Can counteract this by teaching students about the power of struggle
    • Caveats
      • Students may need coaching to complete this well
      • Encourage students to capitalize on their strengths as well as improve upon their weaknesses


Both the Process Analysis and the Diagnostic Learning Log make students more aware of the steps they are taking to learn.  The Process Analysis alerts students to the steps they take to complete assignments.  Noticing these steps can help students identify strengths to reinforce and gaps to fix in order to improve overall learning processes.  The Diagnostic Learning Log makes students aware of what they understand and what they don’t and encourages them to take steps to work through their academic difficulties.


Preparation Steps
  • Determine if there are upcoming tasks or activities that could benefit from the use of a Process Analysis or Diagnostic Learning Tool
  • Design the form that will gather the data related to the selected strategy.  See above for examples.
  • Create sample completed forms that will be used to model the selected strategy
Early Implementation Steps
  • Talk through a sample completed form in order to show students how to complete it and how to think through responses in the form.
  • Explain the purpose of gathering and analyzing the data in the strategy.
  • Analyze the data in order to identify interesting patterns and strategies.  (Note:  Gathering data through Google forms can facilitate this data analysis due to functions such as sorting, conditional formatting, averaging, and pivot tabling).
  • Share key insights that go with the analysis of the data gathered by the selective strategy.
  • Give students time in class to compare their observations with other students and to discuss possible strategies to try in the future.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Have students do the strategy more than once in order to see if their learning processes are improving
  • Have students set a reinforcement and an improvement goal – reinforce a strength and improve upon a weakness.
  • Try one of the extensions described above.
  • Create character learning targets that describe key learning processes.  Let students use analyses to gather evidence of progress towards these learning targets.



169: Assessing Academic Behaviors & Skills





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  1. Productive Study-Time Logs
    • Description
      • Students keep simple records of how long, what time and how well they study at different times of the day.
    • Purpose
      • Students learn:
        • how much they study for a specific course
        • how well they use their study time
        • when they are most productive
        • how much time they are studying relative to their peers
      • Students can adjust choices – such as scheduling study times to occur at more productive times of day.
    • Step-by-Step Procedure
      • Decide what you most want to know and want your students to notice about their study habits.
      • Make a simple log sheet that helps students gather study data related to the things you want yourself and your students to learn.
      • Decide frequency and duration for logging entries.
      • Create sample completed sheets.
      • Share log sheets with students.  Use sample completed logs to explain how to fill out the sheets.  Describe what to include and exclude from the log sheets.
      • Tell students the purpose of the sheets and when you will share a summary of the log sheet data.
    • Analysis Steps
      • Calculate averages for quantitative data in the log sheets.
      • Look for trends that describe:
        • when most studying occurs
        • when most productive studying occurs
        • where most productive studying occurs
      • Note:  If you gather this data in Google forms, the data will pool into Google spreadsheets where pivot tables can be used to identify the trends above.
    • Extension Ides
      • Share data trends extracted from the log sheets and use them to start discussions in which students share ideas and strategies for improving study habits.
      • In statistics, the analysis of the study logs can be done as a course assignment.
    • Pros
      • Student learn more about variations in their study habits and can use these to make better decisions.
      • Summarizing log sheet data can give teachers a measure of student’s time commitment to the course during out of class time.
      • Peer comparisons of log sheet data will help students realize if they are studying too little and make better choices.
      • Teachers can use data to make adjustments to student’s work loads.
    • Cons
      • Some students may forget to complete the form as they go.
      • Students logging many hours but still doing poorly are likely to get discouraged by this assessment.
      • Data summarization can be time consuming (not if you use Google forms and pivot tables)
    • Caveats
      • Students may exaggerate work loads if they think you’re going to make adjustments in response to the data summaries.
      • Finding out summary of study time may be an unwelcome surprise.
  2. Punctuated lectures
    • Description
      • Teacher periodically pauses in a lesson and gives students time to reflect on how their most recent behavior helped or hindered their learning and to jot down insights in the form of anonymous notes to the teacher.
      • Sounds similar to Writing Breaks.
    • Purpose
      • Focuses reflections on how or whether (or not) students are processing information in activities.
      • Encourage students to become self monitoring learners.
    • Step-by-Step Procedure
      • Choose a lecture that can be chunked into smaller segments (each segment no longer than 10-20 min).   Decide on times when you will punctuate the lecture and give students time to reflect and write.
      • At time of punctuation, explain the purpose of the assessment (to reflect on one’s current learnings).
      • Give them reflection time and writing time.  Can also give them prompts such as
        • How fully where you concentrating during the lecture? Did you get distracted? If so, how did you redirect your attention?
        • What were you doing to record the information in the lecture?  How successful were you?
        • What were you doing to make connections between this new information and what you already know?
        • What did you expect to come next in the lecture and why?
      • Collect their feedback.
    • Analysis Steps
      • Observe how specific and how aware students are of their habits.
      • Share some of their successful redirection and recording strategies with the rest of the class.
    • Extension Ides
      • Ask students to save several of their reflections and analyze them for patterns and changes over time.
      • Share especially astute self analyses with the class as examples of keen self awareness.
      • Students can develop “processing plans” that describe:
        • how they will redirect their attention,
        • how they will record their learnings and questions, and
        • how they will connect old and new information.
    • Pros
      • Shows how students learn.
      • Promotes active listening and self reflection.
      • Focuses attention on self-monitoring – important part of metacognition.
    • Cons
      • Students may struggle to be aware of what they were doing and get frustrated.
      • Many students and teachers have not built up a shared vocabulary to describe learning processes.  Building up this language takes time.
    • Caveats
      • Don’t expect immediate results from this strategy.  Being self aware is hard.
      • May encounter resistance to the idea that the methods for information processing can be consciously changed by those who believe the brain is a black box.


Productive Study Time Logs can help teachers and students learn more about students’ study habits outside of class time.  In a PBL setting, gathering this data can set up frank conversations among team members that have large disparities in the amount of time each member is contributing towards products.  Analyzing this data can also help teachers better understand how students are managing the work loads in their classes.


The Punctuated lectures strategy can help students become more aware of the processes students are using to focus their attention and process information during workshops.  It can also get students to try out new strategies that may improve the way they learn during workshops.


Preparation Steps
  • Decide what types of things you would like students to learn about their learning processes during and outside of class time.
  • Select the strategy that will help students gather the most data and observations about the processes that are most important to you.
  • Write character learning targets that relate to the specific study habits or information processing habits you would like students to practice and assess.
Early Implementation Steps
  • Create models for the selected strategy.  Use these to demonstrate to the students how to record their observations.
  • Explain what teachers and students can learn from investigating the study data.
  • Give students time to practice the strategy.  Provide them with guide sheets to gather their observations.
  • Teachers and peers analyze the data to note interesting comparisons and trends.  Use these insights to identify possible new strategies to try out to improve learning.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Use Google forms to consolidate productive study time logs data into a spreadsheet that can be pivot tabled to analyze the trends.
  • Set up discussion protocols that will help peers provide each other with constructive study feedback based on their observations and brainstorm adjustments.
  • Do the strategy at different times in the course that are well separated and compare the data from both times to notice what changes and stayed the same.



153: Teaching Math for a Growth Mindset



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Setting Up Classroom Norms:
  • Positive Norms for Math Classes:
    1. Everyone can learn math to the highest levels.
    2. Mistakes are valuable.
    3. Questions are really important.
    4. Math is about creativity and sense making.
    5. Math is about connections and communicating.
    6. Depth is much more important than speed.
    7. Math class is about learning, not performing.
  • In small groups, lets students specify norms for things they’d like to see / hear / experience (or not) while team problem solving.  Create posters of student preferences.
  • Skills to teach:
    • Listening to each other
    • Respecting each other
    • Building on each other’s ideas
  • Communicate expectations for what math looks like when teams are actively processing such as:
    • Your group will be successful today if you are …
      • Recognizing and describing patterns
      • Justifying thinking and using multiple representations
      • Making connections between different approaches and representations
      • Using words, arrows, numbers and color coding to communicate ideas clearly
      • Explaining ideas clearly to team members and the teacher
      • Asking questions to understand the thinking of other team members
      • Asking questions that push the group to go deeper
      • Organizing a presentation so that people outside the group can understand your group’s thinking
    • I will be looking for:
      • Learning and working in the middle of the table
      • Equal air time
      • Sticking together
      • Listening to each other
      • Asking each other lots of questions
      • Following your team roles
    • You can use the checklists above to record what you’re observing while students work in teams and to provide them feedback on their teamwork.
Believe in All of Your Students
  • Have high expectations for all students and provide support and positive messaging that helps students believe & demonstrate that they can achieve your high expectations
  • Avoid early tracking
  • Avoid unspoken messages that communicate that you don’t believe is someone’s potential – like only assigning them easy work
Value Struggle and Failure
  • Assign challenging math problems that provide opportunities for struggle and learning mistakes
  • Assign low floor, high ceiling tasks
  • Communicate frequently that struggle and failure are good (failing forward)
  • Break the myth of “effortless achievement”; all achievers worked hard and failed, even geniuses
Give Growth Praise and Help
  • Growth praise and help focuses on strategies and effort, not on ability
  • When students do math problem wrong – start by validating the strategy they used to first tackle the problem before redirecting them to new strategies
  • Instead of breaking down problems for students – ask them to draw the problem and see what ideas come out of that activity
  • When students can handle a little more struggle – respond to their requests for help by saying – Do you want my brain to grow or your brain to grow?
  • Show students that math is a growth subject
Teach Math as an Open, Growth, Learning Subject
  • Closed math problems – just ask for calculations, promote a fixed mindset
  • Open up math problems so they invite students to think and grow.
    • Example of opening up math problems:
      • Closed form:  What is 1/2 divided by 1/4?
      • Open form: Make a conjecture about the answer to 1/2 divided by 1/4 and make sense of the answer by using a visual representation of the solution.
      • Closed form: Simplify (1/3)(2x+15)+8
      • Open form: Find as many ways as possible to represent (1/3)(2x+15)+8 that are equivalent.
      • Closed form:  Find the 100th case.
      • Open form: How is the pattern growing? Use your understanding of the pattern to generalize to the 100th case.
  • Ask students to discuss:
    • ways of seeing mathematics
    • ways of representing ideas
    • different pathways through problems and solutions
    • why use different methods
    • how do different methods work
  • Instead of just finding answers allow students to:
    • explore ideas
    • make connections
    • value growth and learning
    • learn standard procedures when they are ready to see the need for them and can make sense of them
Encourage Students to be Mathematicians
  • What mathematicians do and think:
    • math is creative, beautiful and aesthetic
    • propose and test ideas
    • develop working definitions for ideas based on consensus and reasoning
    • share thinking and ideas
  • Do not be afraid to call students, young mathematicians – why not? if they can be young artists and young musicians, why not young mathematicians?
Teach Mathematics as a Subject of Patterns and Connections
  • Encourage students to see themselves as pattern seekers
  • Teach traditional procedures as one of many sense making approaches to perform operations
  • Encourage students to see math as a classification and study of all possible patterns
  • Give students an active role in pattern seeking
  • Help and let students see the connections between methods
Teach Creative and Visual Mathematics
  • In expectations ask students not for speed, but for creative solutions to problems
  • Engage students by asking them to represent problems visually
  • Connect visual ideas with numerical or algebraic methods / solutions
  • Color code:
    • represent the same ideas (ex: the variable x) using the same color
    • illustrate division by using different colors for partitions (division quilt)
Encourage Intuition and Freedom of Thought
  • Encourage intuition by asking students what they think would work before showing them a method
    • give them opportunities to try their methods on problems before teaching new methods
  • Start with the hypothesis that any subject can be taught effectively in some “intellectually honest” form to a child (Bruner)
Value Depth over Speed
  • Ask questions that are open enough to bring depth into discussions
    • Closed form:  Supplementary angles add up to what number?
    • Open forms: Can two acute angles be supplementary angles?  Can two obtuse angles be supplementary angles?
    • Closed form asks for a single answer.
    • Open form provokes conjectures and discussions.
  • Ask students who finish early to extend problems in any way they wish
  • Aim for depth, not speed – engage students by allowing them to go deeper into problems
Connect Mathematics to the World Using Mathematical Modeling
  • Textbooks oven cast math in pseudo contexts (fake real world problems)
  • Use real world variables part of the time to expose students to real uses of math
  • View math as a posing questions and form math models around those questions
  • Modeling – simplification of any real world problem into a pure math form that can help solve a problem
  • Students often use modeling all the time, but are unaware of it
  • Use visual representations to represent problems (one type of modeling)
  • Use real data from newspapers, magazines, online databases, etc.
  • Make students think about how contexts constrain possible solutions
Encourage Students to Pose Questions, Reason, Justify and Be Skeptical
  • Offer students opportunities to pose questions to situations
    • Example:  Give students priced for finished bracelets and for bracelet supplies.  Then ask them discuss the situation and pose questions.
  • Give students opportunities to try out their own conjectures and use reasoning and data to prove or disprove them.
Teach with Cool Technology and Manipulatives
  • Manipulatives: Cuisenaire rods, multilink cubes, pattern blocks
  • Apps: Geometry Pad (iPad), GeoGebra, Tap Tap Blocks, and many more.  See Rich Mathematical Tasks for ideas.


Teaching mathematics in ways that promote growth mindsets enables students to perceive math as a living, engaging, relevant, and accessible subject.   Giving them access to mathematical processes other than computation, gives students a better chance to experience mathematics more fully and to relate mathematics to processes they already do – such as make conjectures, ask questions, and notice and use patterns. Creating the math culture that promotes growth mindset involves teaching students how to collaboratively problem solve, modeling and teaching more math phases (question formulation, modeling, computation, evaluating models, etc.), designing and facilitating math problems with low floors, high ceilings and authentic contexts, and integrating real world data and technology into problem solving.


Preparation Steps
  • Design and implement learning activities that promote growth mindset and collaboration norms.  Create visuals to market the ideas that emerge from these activities.
  • Research and design curriculum that includes Rich Mathematical Tasks with low floors, high ceilings, open questions, and engaging (if possible real) contexts.
  • Develop assessment tools that relate to math learning and collaboration processes.
  • Research technology tools and manipulatives that can be used to create and facilitate more rich mathematical tasks.
Early Implementation Steps
  • Implement the curriculum and tools planned above.
  • Use student feedback to adjust learning experiences as needed.
Advanced Implementation Steps
  • Identify helpful strategies that can be incorporated into routines to consistently promote a culture of growth mindset.
  • Collaborate with other math teachers and teachers in related disciplines on norms and strategies that can be used in multiple contexts to cultivate growth mindset.