In order to better understand and narrow in on our problem of practice, the three teachers in this cohort spent time observing one another’s classrooms and learning more about one another’s teaching situations.
Spokane Falls Community College is primarily transfer institution with 75% of students planning to attend at 4-year institution after completing their coursework at the community college. All courses are on an 11-week quarter system with 58% of students attending school full time. SFCC has 67% of its demographic at or below 25 years of age. At SFCC data was collected in developmental Algebra I, II and III courses. In short, these titles correspond to the study of linear relationships, the study of quadratic relationships and the study of other functions. An average size for one of these courses is 25 students.
Dishman Hills High School is on a 16-week semester system. The students at DHHS have unique challenges in their education. Many have had life traumas that have kept them from attending school regularly. They are parents, they come from families with drug/alcohol issues, they live in poverty, and school has not been a priority. Consequently, they arrive at high school with little understanding and appreciation of math. Data at DHHS was collected in Washington State Bridge to College courses.
After getting to know one another’s teaching contexts a little better, the three of us decided that we wanted to focus our energy on helping students realize their potential as learners of mathematics, and to help them believe that they are capable of coming up with their own mathematical ideas. We noted that at each of our institutions it seems that students view the teacher as the “havers” of knowledge and themselves as the “have nots.” We wanted students to know they are capable of solving difficult problems without our help. We believe that we can address students’ struggles transitioning from high school to different levels of higher education by targeting this issue.
Our objective was to help students transition from high school to community college or from high school to university seamlessly, and to help smooth the transition for students going from the community colleges to universities by working to create a classroom culture that fosters independent learning and perseverance.
Specifically, we wanted our students to:
- welcome challenges and work through them together or independently
- take ownership of their own learning
- view the teacher as a facilitator not an answer book
- believe that they are capable of solving any problem if they stick with it and persevere
We have confidence that these traits will carry over into other situations in school and life to make our students stronger. Much of what we were aiming towards aligns closely to the Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice as our mission was centered around creating an environment where students were making sense of problems and persevering in solving them (MP1), however to achieve this goal much of what we did in the classroom aligned with the other standards for mathematical practice as well. The rubric we developed for our rubric tasks was designed in such a way that it should target most of the SMP with each task.