NCTM Regional in Minneapolis, Nov. 2009
Jon Hasenbank & Jennifer Kosiak
Presented Nov. 6, 2009
Abstract: The speakers will present the impact of a yearlong, teaching-for-understanding program on students' learning. They will report differences among groups, including how skill and understanding performances changed over time; use crosstabs to illuminate learning gaps between skill and understanding; and conclude with recommendations for practice.
- Presentation Slides (slides.pdf)
- Framework handout (framework_slide.pdf)
- Student work samples (student_work.pdf)
- Assessment Tasks (with Rubrics) for Skill and Understanding in Algebra:
- More Information: WITQ 2007 - Improving Understanding in Algebra
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: There just isn’t time to have my students explore all eight framework questions every day.
A: We suggest ‘sprinkling in’ the understanding questions, picking and choosing only those that naturally connect with the topic at hand. The goal is that over time (not every day) questions from all eight Framework categories will be addressed, practiced, and assessed.
Q: What about homework?
A: In our college algebra study (Hasenbank, 2006) we reduced the skill question set by 18% to make room for understanding questions in the nightly homework. Overall, even with the added understanding questions, students were assigned 8% fewer problems and yet outperformed the comparison group on both skill items and understanding items. The benefits of a focus on understanding and the law of diminishing returns for repetitive practice help explain these results.
Q: Writing skills seem to be a barrier to students communicating their understanding. What can we do to work around that?
A: Students writing skills can improve, but we need to scaffold that learning. We have used sentence skeletons (“First I…, then I…, and finally I…”) to help them structure their responses. A focus on vocabulary development is another important component, and literacy strategies (e.g. Frayer models and other graphic organizers) can be helpful tools at all levels.
Can we really infer understanding from
Q: If students have been exposed to the answers to these “deep questions” in class, how can we be sure students responses on tests don’t just reflect answers that are simply being recited back?
A: Due to the complex nature of “understood knowledge,” it is true that inferring deep understanding from responses on a written test is problematic. However, the ability to answer an understanding question is clearly preferable to the inability to do so, even if for some students that knowledge is superficial. Ultimately, the more the learning environment is focused on asking and exploring deep questions, the more likely written responses will reflect true understanding.