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March 17, 2021

Learning from Students’ Productive Struggles

As you think about getting ready for assessments, it’s important to think about the role student work can play — the way you and your students can use their work to learn more about their misconceptions, areas of struggle, progress, and successes. We know that looking at student work is a natural part of a teacher’s day. There is so much we can learn from it, depending on how we look at it. We may be quickly reviewing an exit ticket so we can adjust the next day’s lesson, or we may be looking at their work more deeply during a multi-day formative assessment lesson, such as those seen in our series, “Engaging Students in Productive Struggle.”

In the first part of this series, we stepped inside two middle school classrooms to capture formative assessment in action. We saw teachers Teri Walker and Susie Morehead using resources from the Mathematics Assessment Project (MAP) to reveal and develop their students’ mathematical understanding.

In the next part of the series, we take a closer look at student thinking and work samples from these classrooms. In the two short videos below, you’ll see students collaborating on their own work or on another student’s work to deepen and assess their own understanding of the mathematics.

In Learning from Mistakes: Linear Equations, watch three students analyze the way other students have approached the same problems. As they notice some of the mistakes made in the student work samples, they better understand how to approach their own work.

In Collaborative Work with Proportional Relationships, listen to a pair of students work through a problem to decide whether or not there is a proportional relationship. Notice that although one student initially leads, the other student’s careful analysis eventually takes them in the right direction.

students working together

In these videos, it’s wonderful to see students working through the math with their peers. The way the students think and talk about math is so rich, and they are not waiting for the teacher to step in and intervene — they know it is their job to have that productive struggle.

By watching their students persevere together, Ms. Walker and Ms. Morehead can assess their students’ understanding, note any remaining misconceptions, and plan for the next day’s lesson.

Watch the Full Lessons: Engaging Students with “Productive Struggle”


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