Factors to Consider When Determining Maximum Appropriate Involvement

Yesterday I blogged about learning a new structure for determining the amount of involvement students could/should have in decision making in the classroom. It’s really hard to figure out what level is really the best, but here were the factors they suggested considering:

  • Stakeholder buy-in
  • Time available
  • Importance of decision
  • Information needed
  • Capability of team members

Time available, importance of decision, and information needed are the easiest to deal with. Important high-priority decisions don’t give much space for error or judgement, and it makes sense for one person (or a very small team of people) to make those decisions. But stakeholder buy-in and capability of team members require much more thought.

Stakeholder buy-in is important as well. Ideally every student would have buy-in to everything that they do all the time in school. OBVIOUSLY that’s not the case. When it comes to buy-in I believe in a lot of what Dan Meyer talks about – students don’t necessarily need “real-life” examples to have buy-in. You can look up tons of posts on “real-life” examples that are absolutely terrible, and I’ll admit that I’m definitely to blame for perpetuating this when I’m too lazy to adjust or plan better. Buy-in can be as simple as wanting to be right or wanting to understand! Most of my favorite days in my almost-two-years of teaching so far are when I get students to argue. I love it. It is the best. I cannot encourage you enough to get students to argue about problems.

Capability of team members is another issue which I don’t take lightly. For those who don’t know, I teach year-long collaborative Algebra 1 and collaborative AFDA. Year-long collaborative Algebra 1 consists of the lowest freshman (and sometimes sophomores, juniors, and seniors) who are still in inclusive settings. The only other option is a pull-out math class for special ed students who meet certain requirements. AFDA stands for Algebra, Functions, and Data Analysis and is either:

  1. a transitional course between Geometry and Algebra 2 for students who need a boost in preparing for Algebra 2, or
  2. the third required math course for graduating from high school.

No one else at my school wants to teach these classes. There are multiple times each week where these classes go from tugging on my heartstrings one moment to making me incredibly disappointed or frustrated the next. It is a tough load sometimes, but it’s tough for the kids too.  A lot of these students haven’t gotten above a C in math ever. Ever. Some of my freshman failed all of their middle school math classes. So I always struggle with figuring out what they are capable of. I think that sometimes I put too much pressure on them, or don’t provide them with enough support, but I don’t want them to continue down the path they’ve been on. I’m guessing that more than one of these students hasn’t been successful in math because:

  1. no one showed them really how to do something and/or why that works;
  2. no one had the patience to let them take a few days, or a few after school sessions, or a few weeks after the class has moved on to three new topics, before finally figuring it out;
  3. no one wanted to deal with their behavioral issues;
  4. no one believed that they could do it and so they didn’t think they could either.

Lord knows I could still use quite a bit of improvement in the realm of classroom management and behavioral interventions, but I want to continue to try having this patience with them. I love working with “the slow kids” because their AHA! moments are the biggest and brightest. I love working with “the kids who need calculators” because it’s amazing to see improvements in their mental math capabilities. I love working with “the kids who won’t ever need higher than Algebra 2 in math” because when they do finally pass (or even better, get A’s, B’s, or C’s in these classes) they are genuinely proud of themselves and grateful that they’ve shown success.

So I think that all of my kids are capable. They’re all worthy of a solid math education. I just have to figure out how much control they’re capable of having.

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Attaining Maximum Appropriate Involvement

I’m back and attempting to participate in the #MTBoS30 challenge this month. There are 31 days in May, but I’m guessing they’re giving us a day off for Memorial Day? Who knows. I’m way behind in posting stuff from our interactive notebooks in Algebra I and I will probably mass-upload those during finals week (hopefully I won’t have many finals to grade!) as well as discuss what’s been good about my first time teaching AFDA.

I spent this weekend in Durham attending job training for my summer job. I’ll be working again this summer for DukeTIP – a residential enrichment program for gifted and talented students. I’m really pumped for this summer because I’ll be doing a sustainability and engineering program, so I’m pretty sure I’ll learn just as much (if not more) than my students!

During our last part of training this morning, we heard a talk about important pieces of leading teams, and one of those pieces was “Maximum Appropriate Involvement in Decision Making”. I immediately  started picking and pulling at how I could adapt this to my teaching practices. The idea is that different things require decisions being made in different ways. There are 5 levels, which you can read more about here if you’re interested, but I’ll list them briefly below:

  • Decide and announce
  • Gather input from individuals and decide
  • Gather input from the team and decide
  • Consensus
  • Delegate with constraints

This makes so much more sense to me than the general ideas of student buy-in and involvement, because I think it’s a little bit more clear cut.

There are certain things that we decide as teachers, or are decided for us by our department, administration, district, or state, and tell our students “this is what we’re doing and why/how we’re doing it.”

There are certain times, often on tests and exit tickets, where we ask for input for students on what they liked/didn’t like/understood/didn’t understand so that we can make future instructional decisions.

There are certain topics that require whole-class discussions, such as class norms or how to seek out extra help, where we take the information provided to us by the class and decide how we want to implement their ideas (or if it’s even feasible to do so!)

There are certain activities that really require buy-in and understanding from each individual in the classroom in order to be successful, so a class discussion has to be held and the whole class needs to agree on what is going to happen and how/why it’s happening.

Then finally, there are times where we can simply tell our students, “This is your responsibility, have this done by a certain time/date within these loose guidelines and you’re good.”

While reflecting on these five levels I realized that I live almost exclusively in the lowest two. I think that part of that is me being a new teacher and still trying to get a handle on classroom management; the “easiest” way to manage a classroom is to tell students everything and expect them to do it. But that’s definitely not the most fun or interesting or helpful for them at times, and it doesn’t produce the best results when it comes to student achievement and appreciation. So this is one of the things I’m going to continue to reflect a lot on over the next few months – how can I push myself (and my students) toward those higher levels of involvement in making decisions within the classroom?

I’ll blog more about the factors to consider when deciding what level is appropriate tomorrow as well as some other things I picked up from this training throughout the month!

P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about DukeTIP visit tip.duke.edu