My school has always administered exams in the first and third trimester (meaning that students usually are taking their trimester exam right about now). However, this year, we moved to a one exam model, which will be given at the end of trimester 2.
As I thought about what I would do to shift things without an exam, I asked myself what part of the exam period I thought brought the most value to my students’ learning. To me, the studying and synthesizing of material from the beginning of the school year, the organizing of information, and the focus on helping students make connections between the various units and topics is where the value lies. And so I decided to create a project for my students focused on these aspects.
Metacognition – “thinking about one’s thinking” – has been linked to improved learning outcomes. Research has shown that metacognition promotes deeper learning and affects whether students can transfer and apply their knowledge to new scenarios. Teachers can scaffold metacognition by asking students to explain their thought process. By asking, “how did you figure that out?” or “talk through your solution,” teachers can help students reflect on the process and tease out the strategies they chose to use in solving problems. What’s more, by providing opportunities for students to revise and analyze errors, teachers help students see more clearly how their thinking has improved and oftentimes allows them to see the solution differently.
Documenting Growth & Reflecting on Connections
The final trimester project I created asked students to use Sutori to “document their growth & reflect on connections in AP Calculus.” In the first trimester of AP Calculus, we have studied limits, derivatives, and begun applying properties of derivatives. This project allowed students to demonstrate their mastery of these sections by highlighting the connections they have been able to form between the “old” and “new” material.
All trimester long, we have been doing reflective activities – through Flipgrid posts, homework revisions, and in creating self-made study guides. In this project, students pulled together work they completed in the past and wrote reflective statements talking about why they chose to showcase this specific question and how their understanding of the topic has grown.
Assignment prompt —
To complete this project, you will use Sutori to capture artifacts you choose to highlight. You will be able to insert videos, audio recording, and images into your Sutori project to capture your reflective process. For each element you choose to include, you should describe why you chose that piece of work. Some of this should be calculus specific:
- Looking back on a specific assignment/problem, what knowledge had you not yet gained when you completed the task that you now have? How has this new information taken your understanding to a new level?
- Redo a previously assigned problem of your choice. Would you use the same approach to solve that problem now? Have we have learned something new that would allow you to come up with a more elegant or simpler solution.
- Find a previously assigned problem that you solved algebraically. Redo the problem graphically and make note of how both approaches allow you to come up with the same outcome (ie: how do you interpret the graph?).
- Find a problem from chapter 2 (look at your quizzes, quiz reviews, or test) and describe how your understanding of the concept asked there has grown now that you know about derivatives.
Beyond capturing individual problems, your Sutori should represent a detailed reflection and goal setting process. Some things you will want to talk about include:
- What did you do well? And how will you ensure that you continue to make a habit of this?
- What could use improvement? And what action steps will you take to boost future outcomes?
- What strategies have you learned that work well for you as a learner? And how can you apply this to your future studies?
The goal of this project is to help you look back on past work and connect it to new knowledge. Reflection is key to learning, and this project will provide you the opportunity to form deeper connections between the chapters we have studied. Ultimately, this exercise is one you should practice as a student in college to maximize your success. Research has proven that:
“When you practice elaboration, there’s no known limit to how much you can learn. Elaboration is the process of giving new material meaning by expressing it in your own words and connecting it with what you already know. The more you can explain about the way your new learning relates to your prior knowledge, the stronger your grasp of the new learning will be, and the more connections you create that will help you remember it later.”
― Peter C. Brown, Make It Stick
I hope that you not only learn a lot in compiling work that you want to showcase and reflecting on that work, but that you also enjoy this process. You have come a long way since the start of the year, and I hope that this activity helps you see that!
Having students evaluate how they approached problems done in the past is an important component of the learning process. As students reflect, they are forced to tap into prior knowledge to connect new ideas to things they already know. By actively reflecting on what they learned and how they learned it, students are able to grow their understandings beyond rote memorization. And in the reflection process, students become aware of holes in their knowledge. This realization is a powerful component in helping students learn how to learn.
Since there is some personal information shared in the Sutori projects students submitted, I am not going to share entire projects in this post. But I do want to share some snapshots:
As you can see, students embedded Desmos graphs to share their graphical interpretation of algebraic solutions and embedded Flipgrid responses to talk out their reflections and create mini “screencasts” to verbalize their solution process. They used text captions to add a reflective statement to explain why they included each element, what deeper understanding of the concept they have gained since originally doing the problem, etc.
If you are interested in seeing the full project guidelines, along with the rubric I used for grading, you can find that information here:
I am so proud of the work my students have done this trimester! I know that they impressed themselves as they looked back on all the hard work they’ve done and reflected on their personal growth and the connections they have made in the past three months.