In my role at NWEA, I’m often working with teachers who relate stories of their success in the classroom. From time to time I’ll share those stories. To follow is a story of one teacher who embraced the idea of empowering students by having them collaborate on an in-depth math problem and then had them work together to score the results.
A teacher decided that she really wanted her pre-algebra class to work with an in-depth problem and really understand how to improve. In order to do this, she used an activity and a rubric from the Somerset workbook called Prize Money Split. The activity has one main task which requires students to divide a $300 prize from a science fair project based on the amount of time that each team member spent on the project. Students have to work with fractions, decimals, and percentages to complete the activity.
She developed a series of five lessons that dealt with the activity, its rubric, and scoring. The first lesson was a review, and the entire second lesson was spent completing the workbook activity. During the third lesson, they went through each part of the activity, and students were given the opportunity to ask her and others questions. At the end of the class period, she randomly called on students, using craft sticks, to share their answers for each part of the activity.
The last two lessons in this series were spent scoring the responses. She set this up just like an inter-rater reliability scoring session. She told the kids that they would be participating in a workshop just like those that are run to score their standardized tests. They would have to be trained and calibrated on sample papers before they could score one another’s work. She even set up the tables like it was a workshop and gave the groups agendas for their tables. The kids really liked the idea that they were training as a scorer. One student even remarked, “This was really cool. It made me feel important that I would be trusted with something like this.” She thought that because of the scoring sessions, the students took the scoring more seriously, and they had a lot of fun with it. Next time, she thinks she’ll will even give them name tags for the sessions.
On the first day of the “training” the first thing they did was look at the rubric. Each group got a copy of the rubric, which was specific to this task. They discussed the different parts of the question, the correct answers, and where partial credit could be awarded. They then scored a sample of student work together. This sample came with the Somerset materials, so no one was embarrassed by having his or her work shown to everyone. After they worked through that sample together, every student had to score three more samples (also provided with the task) for homework. She thought the hardest thing for them was figuring out when to give partial credit. The next day they came into class and talked about the scores that they assigned and why, and they talked about how they could tell if they were “calibrated” for their scoring session.
Finally, the students scored one another’s responses. When the students first completed the workbook activity, she had them use their student ID numbers instead of their names. That way no one would know whose response the student was scoring. Then after they handed them in, she switched the work from her two classes. Not only did they not know whose response they were scoring, they were not even scoring a paper for someone in their class. She never told them, and she still doesn’t think they know. The kids were great. They worked hard and were on task for the entire class period.
Boy, I have to improve my handwriting,” while another (student) commented, “Wow, I never knew that grading was this hard!”
After the students scored the papers, she scored them herself. She was surprised; the majority of the scores were right on, even a bit harsh. Next time she may not rescore them. The student comments were great; one student remarked, “Boy, I have to improve my handwriting,” while another commented, “Wow, I never knew that grading was this hard!” They even commented on their learning; one student said, “Reading my friends’ responses really helped. I realized that I need to write more when I am answering questions like this!”
Overall this was a very worthwhile activity. Even though it took five lessons, she would absolutely do it again. It was so helpful for her students to see other students’ work, to work through the criteria on the rubric, and to learn about the scoring process. She thinks they got so much out of this activity, and now that they have been through “the inter-rater reliability training” it shouldn’t take quite as long the next time.
This teacher used student collaboration in a unique way that helped them better understand their learning targets, with results that got students involved and generated results. Stay tuned for more teacher stories.