Things I No Longer Believe In

The acronym for a SMARRT objective:

Specific, Measurable, Achieveable, Rigorous, Relevant, Tied to a larger goal

This was my bible for the first half of this year. Break each big topic down into small, manageable chunks. Teach each chunk on a different day. Students master all the chunks, and they master the big idea. If the topic is unit conversions, I have a day for single step, a day for multi-step, and a day for compound units. If the topic is the Pythagorean Theorem, I have a day for finding the hypotenuse, a day for finding a leg, and a day for applying it on a coordinate plane.

First evidence that this didn’t work that well — my kids couldn’t retain complex concepts, even the ones we practiced over and over again.

This unit (bivariate data/scatter plots), I’ve moved away from that in a big way. It was prompted mostly by extremely low attendance on St. Patrick’s Day (see here) when I scrapped a quiz and explored some fascinating data with my students instead. Then, I did an “intro” day to bivariate data, looking at a few different data sets and exploring this task from yummymath. Then, when we looked at types of association (positive/negative, linear/non-linear, no association) we talked briefly about best fit lines and outliers as well. Then outliers, which we quickly moved past and dove into an analysis of this data. Students are doing well with each daily skill, and their analysis has moved to a new level, going beyond the scope of the daily objective and getting at more of the key ideas of the unit.

Seems simple, but it’s a shift for me — conceptual understanding is not the sum of mastery of a set of building block tasks, and it comes from wresting with big ideas, puzzles, and non-routine questions, and those don’t often fit into daily SMARRT objectives.

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