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Guest Post: Is reabhloideach mise.

by Meg Clementi

b4ce9c74625bfa28595da719e6f32686.jpg-2.gifIs reabhloideach mise.  I am a revolutionary.

As a math teacher, I am questioned by peers as to why I have my students write.  What is
my purpose in asking students to explain their thinking?  Why have I attended conferences, courses and programs whose attendees are comprised of 99% English teachers and Elementary reading and writing teachers?  I stand at the edges, accepting the shaken heads and wonderings of my peers.

Is reabhloideach mise
.  I am a revolutionary.

I have my students write because their ability to explain their thinking is important to me.   Their ability to justify their processes and answers is critical.  Their depth of knowledge is essential.  My students write because as their teacher, I demand this level of participation, performance and comprehension from them.  I am not satisfied with them simply renting knowledge and discarding what they have learned as they place their hands on the doorknob and walk out of my classroom for the last time.  I want them to own knowledge.

Is reabhloideach mise.  I am a revolutionary.

In the U.S., standardized tests are the name of the game – they are fundamentally ingrained in public school practice.  School districts learn to play the game and achieve certain proficient levels or risk sanctions from the state.  Since the students must take these tests, a question that plagues teachers and administrators is a practical one – how can we get the students to test at the proficient or advanced level?  This question is at the heart of my research – is there a correlation between the implementation of literacy strategies and students’ scores on these standardized tests.  My research will marry the passion I have for writing in math classes with the state testing requirements.

My research is a mixed method study and will include quantitative and qualitative data.  The 900 middle school students in our district take 6 standardized pretests each year – a national computerized pre-test aligned to the state test in the fall and spring, four quarterly assessments aligned to the state test in preparation for the actual state test in the spring.  The qualitative data I examine will include the 6300 data points from this school year and 6300 data points for the next school year.  The qualitative data will arise from interview questions with the nine middle school mathematics teachers.  What types of literacy instruction are most impactful?  Why should students write in math classes, if at all?  What types of professional development are needed for the staff to effectively implement a writing program?  What best literacy practices do you employ in your practice? These are some of the questions I will be asking them as the year progresses.

  Go raibh maith agat.  Thank you.

I am in a cohort with 54 other doctoral students. We were all asked to submit proposals to speak at the International Research Methods Conference held at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, Ireland in May 2016. I was one of eight selected to present my research. IRMSS is an educational conference held at “Mary I” each May and focuses on the issues educators face each day – not the latest issues – the issues that never seem to be resolved – and examines new, innovative solutions to those issues. Teachers from Ireland, Northern Ireland, England and Scotland attend. All told, about 250-300 attendees were present.

I did not know until the day before we presented that there was an actual contest and that the directors would award first, second and third place. I actually won second place, and was rather shocked when my name was called. I sat in my chair staring ahead and it was not until a colleague sitting behind me nudged me and said, “you have to go up to the stage that I thought about moving – a bit of an outer body experience.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Meg, you got me thinking more about this idea of “renting or owning” knowledge. With information at our fingertips, there is a tendency to get what is needed for the moment and as you say “discard” it when class is over. I agree that writing in any subject or discipline deepens knowledge and understanding. Thanks for sharing.


    October 31, 2016
  2. Meg, I love what you stated in regards to why you have your students write: “I have my students write because their ability to explain their thinking is important to me. Their ability to justify their processes and answers is critical. Their depth of knowledge is essential. My students write because as their teacher, I demand this level of participation, performance and comprehension from them.”
    I truly commend you for taking this extra step for your students. You are essentially doing it for them, to help them as much as you possibly can so you gain knowledge as to what they do and do not understand. Writing is such an important aspect of life and truly comes in handy even when we think we do not “need” to write. I can only imagine how difficult it may be to help students if your students do not understand how to find the correct answer to a math problem. Because there are so many students and different way that they may struggle with how to get the correct answer, writing down their process to finding the answer is a brilliant idea. It not only shows you exactly where they are struggling, but I can assume that it may save you a tremendous amount of time in the long run as well. I think this is a great idea to do with students in math. I struggle with math myself, and I think that if my former teachers would have incorporated this type of experiment in the classroom, I would have been able to understand more because they would have had more time to help me if they saw where and what I did not understand. Because students are mandated to take standardized test in their academic years, I think incorporating writing will absolutely help them test at proficient and advanced levels. Kudos to you!


    October 30, 2016

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