Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Achieving the Target Level on Your Teacher Evaluation System: It’s as Easy as a LoTi 3!

Executing a lesson at a LoTi 3 based on the LoTi Framework easily translates to either an Effective, Proficient, or Satisfactory rating on most teacher evaluation instruments used on the planet these days. Briefly, a LoTi 3 involves students engaged in higher levels of cognitive complexity (e.g., problem-solving, decision-making, inductive reasoning) relating to teacher-directed problems using the available digital and/or environmental resources This level seems to be a reasonable target for most teachers when the content they teach already lends itself to real world connections and rich uses of technology. But what about those days when the classic review lesson is used to help prepare students for an upcoming assessment—particularly at the high school level and specifically, in an Algebra 1 or Algebra 2 classroom?

This week I participated in a lesson modeling episode with colleagues at Camden’s Academy Charter High School in Camden, New Jersey, where the targeted concepts included rearranging formulas to highlight a quantity of interest, using the same reasoning as in solving equations, solving systems of linear equations focusing on pairs of linear equations in two variables, and comparing properties of two functions each represented in a different way (e.g., algebraically, graphically, numerically in tables, or by verbal descriptions). Hardly fodder for showcasing real world connections and student engagement!

Yet, integrating the protocol used on the Food Network’s Chopped series provided opportunity for students to apply the math content to a self-selected real world connection (e.g., representing one of the mystery ingredients) at a self-selected level of rigor (e.g., another mystery ingredient, if you are familiar with the Chopped format) while collaborating in small groups to find a solution—all the makings for a LoTi 3!

Often times, students lose themselves in memorizing isolated formulas while struggling with math fluency that cripples their progress and reduces any confidence or interest they might have in solving an open-ended or extended response math problem.

As we asked students at the end of the class period to complete an exit ticket, I proceeded to complete my own. My own "Aha!" moment was that most of these students struggle with the math because it is offered as a conglomeration of isolated, emotionally-void numbers and symbols. When do we allow kids to mix concepts like imagination, fun, and risk-taking into their everyday math learning? Achieving a proficient level on most teacher evaluation metrics means that we have provided opportunities for rich engagement, higher order thinking, and networked collaboration—all of which cannot be achieved unless we give students latitude to discuss, explore, and apply their math (or any other content) in a safe, playful, and high-energy-charged learning environment. This is the hallmark of a LoTi 3 as well as an achievable target for elevating the professional practice of all educators.