Why is Assessment Important?

Well, here I am… my first blog and post.  As I reflect on the activities of our first week, I remembered this TED talk by Dan Meyer.  Imagine how rich an online math class could be using Dan’s suggestions and some of the tools we explored this week:  wikis, surveys, and interviews!

My Interview, courtesy of Deb Whiting

Sallie Sandler is an experienced math instructor with some fascinating life experiences.  She has been teaching for many years and is excited about embracing the online venue.  She has visited the Alps in Austria, chaperoned a summer trip to Germany for 45 high school students, and has hiked and climbed all over the US;  the Alps, however, remain her most amazing trip!  Let’s meet Sallie ….

Why have you chosen this course, this university and/or this program?  This is my second course in the online teaching certificate program.  I enjoyed the first course, and hope to complete the certificate within a reasonable amount of time.  I teach in a one-to-one school and the virtual academy offered by the school is lacking (especially in mathematics).  The pressure has been on those teachers who are willing to take technology to the next level to develop hybrid and online courses (to replace our virtual academy).  I’m hoping I’ll be prepared and ready to do so.

Tell me about your background, experiences, and/or skills.  I’ve been a math teacher in the Kutztown Area School District for 23 years.  I’ve taught just about every level of high school math, but I feel at my best teaching Precalculus and Calculus.  I have also developed two “seatless” electives:  Calculus with Mathematica and a Mathematics Literature Circle. Prior to teaching math I was an admissions counselor at Penn State University. I grew up outside of Schuylkill Haven, PA — very, very rural, attended Penn State for both my BS and Master’s degrees, and now live a mere 3 miles from where I grew up. I have 3 brothers & sisters, my parents are both still with us (I am so lucky), and I have 5 nieces and nephews who are now starting to raise their own families.

Sallie … what are “seatless classes?”   “Seatless” classes are classes that I deliver electronically, but I can’t really say they are  “online” courses, because my students in those courses are in the same building as I am and they can seek my face-to-face assistance any time they like.  These electives allow students more scheduling opportunities (our school is very small (approximately 500 students 9-12)).

What do you expect from this course?  The assessment piece of an online teaching environment (particularly with mathematics) remains a mystery to me.  I’m hoping to gain some insight into how I can balance my need to know my students can execute mathematical skills as well as apply and analyze new problem situations using those skills.

What is one thing we might never have guessed about you?  I didn’t start college until I was 23… I worked and did a cross-country camping trip instead!

Who is that special someone, thing or event that you cherish and would never want to give up?  Wow… this is a loaded question.  Special someone:  my husband, Steve (we went to Kindergarten together).  I don’t feel the need to cherish things, but my two English Springer Spaniels are also near and dear to me — they are my children now.

Tools of the Week:  Survey, Interview & Wiki

We completed a brief course survey for our instructor.  The survey served as a non-threatening way to express concerns, doubts, fears about the course, the technology involved, and any other concerns.  This could be used as a screening by the instructor to identify student-specific needs,  as well as a means of certifying that each student can complete an online survey.  The survey is an assessment tool that I believe has merit.  It could be used in a similar situation and also as a means of gathering information about student progress throughout the course.

We each interviewed a classmate and reported on our discussions.   This format gave the instructor more feedback about each student’s comfort level with the technology used in this course.  I like the interview, as it  served as a means of getting online students involved immediately, it allowed us to get to know one another, and it required a degree of commitment from both parties.

We used a wiki (PBworks) to collaborate with classmates on netiquette guidelines.  The wiki could be used again as a certification, and, additionally, the instructor can gain valuable feedback as students manage (or learn to manage) the wiki.  At our school we use googledocs, so the wiki was foreign to me and I was really uncomfortable with the interface.  I’m not exactly sure how I could use a wiki and how I would assess student learning using a wiki in mathematics instruction.  My students certainly use googledocs, but more as a means of communicating ideas and information, not as a tool for which they will be assessed.  How does one assess student use of a wiki?

I believe the survey and interview are better suited to my vision of an online mathematics class.  These are tools that could be used in a variety of ways to gather information about student learning, understanding and progress.

Additional Selected Readings/Links

  1. Mathematics Inside the Black Box:  Assessment for Learning in the Mathematics Classroom. Jeremy Hodgen and Dylan Wiliam. 2006. Available at ww2.youresc.k12.oh.us/cos/math/files/6_inside_the_black-box.pdf
  2. Analyzing Online Discourse to Assess Students’ Thinking. Randall E. Groth. 2008. Available at http://www.nctm.org/publications/article.aspx?id=19429
  3. Five Key Strategies for Effective Formative Assessment.  NCTM Research Brief.  Available at http://www.nctm.org/news/content.aspx?id=11474