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Dealing with Students' Reactions to New Teaching Strategies Discussion Summary-Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS)


Dealing with Students' Reactions to New Teaching Strategies
Discussion Summary

Discussion Announcement | Guests | Suggested Resources

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 I am excited to introduce Kate Nonesuch, an adult education
instructor/researcher, who has been in the field of adult literacy and
numeracy for nearly thirty years, most of that time at Vancouver Island
University, Cowichan Campus, Duncan, BC, Canada.  She has been
concentrating on writing and research into teaching practice in adult
literacy and numeracy.  Her own education (a four-year BA from
Carleton University and a teaching certificate earned at the University
of Saskatchewan) informs her teaching practice less than her politics
of inclusion and the lessons her students have taught her. Learner
autonomy has always been a strong focus of her work.  

Kate will be asking and answering questions that list subscribers
have on "Dealing with Student's Reactions to New Teaching
Strategies".  The discussion will focus on recognizing student
resistance and looking at strategies for overcoming it, making learners
part of the teaching team, and in charge of their own learning.

Please post your questions or comments for Kate to the list by emailing numeracy@lincs.ed.gov

Kate's article, "Changing Practice, Expanding Minds", appears on
page 20 of the Focus on Basics issue at the following link:  http://www.ncsall.net/fileadmin/resources/fob/2008/fob_9a.pdf#page=20

 Welcome Kate Nonesuch!

As an instructor of both adult basic and college preparation math
students, I find that learners seem to expect the same protocol from
every math course and math instructor.  And, when there is a
divergence from their expectation they are very vocal about how they do
not like the change even if it will benefit them. What can I do to
assist my students in understanding that the "same ole, same ole" is
not always the best way to achieve a deeper and richer understanding of
mathematical concepts? 

Brooke Istas, Moderator

LINCS Math and Numeracy List


Thanks, Brooke, for inviting me to facilitate a discussion on the
math and numeracy list. You put the problem so well: "What can I do to
assist my students in understanding that the "same ole, same ole" is
not always the best way to achieve a deeper and richer understanding of
mathematical concepts?"


I have been following this list, and its previous incarnation, for
several years, so I feel I know many of you who post to it. I'm happy
(and a little nervous) to be here. I'm looking forward to this week,
talking about the delicate and robust art of teaching, about relations
with learners, and in particular about dealing with students' reactions
to new teaching strategies.

Reading and posting is one way to participate in the discussion this
week; reading and not posting is another way to participate.  I
recognize the value of both kinds of participation, and while I
encourage you to post your thoughts and feelings and your experiences, I
also know that there are many of you who are reading and thinking and
talking with your colleagues and friends about what has been posted.

I'm planning to post a little vignette or a couple of questions each
day this week to spark discussion, but please don't feel constrained
by my posts-take the discussion where it leads you. (It will probably
make life easier for all of us if you change the subject line in your
reply to match your topic.)

Background reading for this discussion is my article "Changing
Practice, Expanding Minds," on page 20 of the Focus on basics issue at
the following link:  http://www.ncsall.net/fileadmin/resources/fob/2008/fob_9a.pdf#page=20

Kate Nonesuch

Victoria, BC


You decide to do something a little different in math class, and your students resist.

You get out the manipulatives, and someone says, "This stuff's for kids."

You ask people to get into groups to work on a problem, and notice
that two people head for the washroom and one goes to the coffee
machine. 

You ask students to talk about their experience with a particular
kind of problem, and see that most of them are not interested in
anybody else's experience; you suspect that most of them are just
waiting until "the real math" starts.

As Brooke says, "I find that learners seem to expect the same
protocol from every math course and math instructor.  And, when
there is a divergence from their expectation they are very vocal about
how they do not like the change even if it will benefit them." 

So let's begin there, with the reaction your students have to teaching strategies that are new to them.

  • Which of the following strategies do you use or try to use, only to meet with resistance from students? 
  • What reactions do you get from your students?
  • What if anything do you do to defuse their resistance? 
  • What effect does their reaction have on your willingness to keep using the strategy?

Strategies

  • Address and evaluate attitudes and beliefs regarding both learning math and using math.
  • Determine what learners already know about a topic before instruction.
  • Develop understanding by providing opportunities to explore
    mathematical ideas with concrete or visual representations and hands-on
    activities.
  • Encourage the development and practice of estimation skills.
  • Emphasize the use of "mental math" as a legitiamte alternative computation strategy...
  • View computation as a tool for problem solving, not an end in itself. 
  • Encourage use of multiple solution strategies.
  • Develop learners' calculator skills and foster familiarity with computer technology.
  • Provide opportunities for group work.
  • Link numeracy and literacy instruction by providing opportunities for students to communicate about math.
  • Situate problem-solving tasks within familiar, meaningful, realistic contexts in order to facilitate transfer of learning.
  • Develop learners' skills in interpreting numerical or graphical information appearing within documents and text.
  • Assess a broad range of skills, reasoning processes and
    dispositions, using diverse methods (Ginsburg & Gal, 1996, p 2,
    ff).

Ginsburg, L. and I. Gal. (1996). "Instructional Strategies for
Teaching Adult Numeracy Skills."   Retrieved Jan 9, 2011,
from http://eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/detail?accno=ED396156

 

Kate Nonesuch

Victoria, BC


Individual students are different (but there's also a 'group
chemistry' that can make or break the success of a class). 
Students show up for math class with baggage.

I don't teach a math class - but I really want to try to do some
workshops and teach some. (I'm not faculty so that even if I wanted to
-- and I don't -- I couldn't; and then there's politics of what things I
do end up stepping on toes.)   There's the huge problem that
We Don't Have Time To Waste, but if a student's baggage is essentially
keeping them from accessing knowledge and understanding, then all our
noble efforts at instruction are more wasted time.  

Since I tutor students, they've usually already had information
presented to them (tho' some come ahead of time). Asking students what
they already know is useful.  "I have no idea! Tell me!" sends up
my "passive learner" flags and I work to engage the student in
building something out of what they already know... especially since
that also encourages engagement of language about the math. (Sometimes I
have a student with language issues and I'll try to do drawing and
number lines and pictures to help -- but still ask the student to
explain.)   If they can tell me/ show me something, the we
can get started...

I have the advantage of being able to say "okay, if that's not
working, why?" (when students tell me that the instruction is too ...
whatever...) They generally *do* have an opinion that I can work with.

As you said in your materials, respecting the resistance just makes a
ton of sense.   Even if the stated resistance is based on
some other issue (abject fear of failure, for instance), if we don't
get to that, we aren't getting anywhere.  There is also a ton of
power in conveying the message that you're going to be honest - and
that you honestly think that this student can learn this stuff; you're
not just putting in *your* time and sticking a grade on things.

We start our Math 095 with INterval Notation and a fairly typical
Intimidating Overview Of Math Terms.   What I try to do is
focus hard on the most important big ideas and let students know what
they really need to comprehend and use and what they need to jsut get
through.   I'm also working up a little drama describing that
categorization of numbers from rational and irrational to integers and
whole numbers and natural numbers.   My theory is that it
goes into "overflow" so instead of getting three out of five, they get
next to nuthin' -- but if I start wiht rational and irrational... then
"rational, integers, and natural numbers," and then say "oh, then
there's that whOle number thing."   I'm wondering if mastering
the first three first would help with getting all five... and START
the student out with success.

Susan Jones

Academic Development Specialist

Academic Development Center

Parkland College
http://www.resourceroom.net
http://bicyclecu.blogspot.com


Hi Susan,

You mention the very real problem of "We don't have time to waste,"
which is often the reason given by students and instructors for not
taking the time for real understanding. (And I like your response to
that problem.)


I'd put the question out to others on this list:  Is taking the
time to use the manipulatives, do the social math practice, go on the
field trip, deal with the feelings about math, and so on, really worth
it in the long run? Do you find that later work goes more quickly, to
make up for time "lost" at the beginning?  

Kate Nonesuch

Victoria, BC


I teach at an open enrollment center and have a variety of ages (19 -
60)and academic levels of students.  I used Algeblocks this year
for the first time and ALL of my students LIKE using them!  No
one complained and everyone uses the blocks and mats and everyone is
learning the concepts much easier than in the past when I tried to
teach them the 'rules.'  Students who understand help those who
don't and it has been a great experience all around!

Kate


I'm sure the fact that you expect ALL the students to use the
algeblocks makes a difference. There would be more resistance if you
only asked "those who were having trouble" to use them...

However, I think you might be too modest here about your own contribution to the success. ;<) 


Can you tell us how you introduced the blocks, or what kinds of discussion you had with students to get them on board?


Kate Nonesuch

Victoria, BC


Those strategies I've used with the most resistance are the
following. {  }'s are the resistances. (  )'s are my
techniques.

  *   providing concrete or visual hands-on
activities- {adults feel as though they are 'playing' and not really
doing math} (I honestly can't get some students to do this, no matter
what I try. Others will try, and this motivates a few more. I have one
project I get them to do upon completion of an area and perimeter unit,
and that is to 'build' or draw to scale a home with the specific rooms
I've requested. They must then show me the perimeter and area of the
house and rooms. They also have to show the property drawn to scale with
3 gardens-one a triangle, another a rectangle, and the third a circle.
I ask for the areas and perimeters of these, as well. They do love
this project.)

*   using estimation skills-{students want to get the
'right' answer} (We try looking at questions in the GED book, as the
GED is the goal of most students. Because most of the GED math testing
is multiple-choice and the test is timed, students see the benefit of
this skill. They can eliminate answers by estimation and often find the
closest to the exact answer quickly. This is a real incentive for
them.)

*   emphasizing 'mental' math as a legitimate
alternative-{students want to use, pencils, calculators, etc. to get
the 'right' answers} ( I believe the best technique is to use examples
in their everyday lives-banking, shopping for discount items, grocery
shopping, comparing 'phone plans, purchasing children's school supplies
with limited resources, travel costs-bus passes/car-pooling, rents
with and without heat, lights, cable, etc. included, purchasing
medications when the user fee is a % of the cost. The ads in flyers, ads
that come in 'phone bills, pamphlets that can be picked up at the
banks, and many other resources are great for group work or projects
for the practical reinforcement of mental math.)

*   view computation as a tool for problem solving, not an
end in itself {most students just want an answer regardless of whether
they've thought it all through, drawn it out on paper, know what is
pertinent information, etc.} ( I often will go through a problem with
them, talking through the question, looking at the individual info
given, draw it out myself or use manipulatives as we discuss it, then
talk about 'clue' words, if there are any, indicating the process
needed. Once we decide upon the steps to solving the answer, I'll put
down numbers but not complete the function. Then on to another question.
This shows them I'm more interested in the thinking process than the
answer. Lots of times I'll have them write in words what they are
thinking, then write in words what they will do and why without putting
down one number. This really makes them think hard. At first, they
think I'm a bit crazy, not wanting the answer, but then I think most of
them get it!)

Linda Thorsen, Instructor

VCLA


Good morning,

I think that to avoid resistance from adult students it pays to do two things:

1) explain that what we are about to do in class is based on recent
brain research and 2) it's new to me, too, but I think it will
work.  Most adult students have heard about recent brain research
and are curious about new learning techniques that derive from
research.  I give a brief explanation of how the brain works,
according to new research:   how using all of our senses and
abilities puts the full brain in action - which can result in better
learning and remembering.

For example, decoding a reading passage can be enhanced by reading
the passage aloud, drawing an illustration for the passage, or doing a
dramatic acting out of the passage.  These activities get both
sides and all parts of the brain working so that we can learn
better.  Same deal with math.  Writing out math facts is
good, but speaking them, acting them out (like measuring things), and
visualizing math facts in our heads can help, too.   I
explain that if we use our brains in many different ways, we will
actually help our brains learn anything, language or math, sports or
arts. I tell them that I, myself, just recently learned about the brain
research and have just started using these new techniques with my
students, so we're all in the same boat when we try them out.

I think that the students feel respected when we let them in on new
research; they feel like they're contributing when they realize that
their participation helps me and my teaching.

Barbara Caballero

GED and ESL instructor


Thanks, Barbara--

Both of the things you mention are part of what I call "making the
students part of the teaching team," which is my major strategy to get
students to accept teaching techniques that are new to them.


Kate Nonesuch

Victoria, BC


I think for adults they need to see the relevance of what we are
doing so using what I call real life word problems helps them see that
the problems on the GED are really no different than what they do in
their daily lives.   I think many of us as instructors have a
problem doing this because it does take more time to find the materials
and then work up the problems that will teach the skills that we want
our students to learn than just to copy worksheets from a book. 
It requires thinking on our part.

In our geometry class I will have students start out by measuring
different real life objects, then we move on to practical things like
how to buy carpeting or paint for area or border for perimeter. 
We also will look at fliers where one store is selling carpeting by the
square foot and another is selling it by the square yard and which is
the better buy.  I had students who were unable to see the
difference. I had to draw out a square yard on cardboard and a square
foot and the visuals all of a sudden made it click.  Sometimes we
will divide up into teams and see who can decorate their room for the
least amount of money.  If one of the store is having a sale then I
will have them figure out how much they will save.

These work well since these problems are coming from real life
materials that they may encounter in real life there seems to be less
resistance.  By students working in groups, students who don't
feel as confident soon find that they can contribute to the
project.  Working in groups builds community and fosters teamwork
which is a skill that they will need for so many jobs.

Pat McKinley

Todd County Adult Education Director


I was so pleased, Rachel, to see that someone else is using the
EMPower series. Everything there is practical and most is interactive,
promoting discussion. It is perfect for working with adults who are
hesitant to do other than the same old, same old. Once a group begins
using the materials, there are very few who won't 'buy in'. I really
haven't had to do a heavy sell. It's so centered on everyday life
scenarios.

Number Sense gives students a whole new perspective on working with
numbers. Using Benchmarks for fractions, decimals and percents is
awesome, too, as are the others.

Linda Thorsen, Instructor

VCLA


When I introduce a new strategy to students I usually ask if they
agree or would any student want to challenge the method. 
Enabling the students to challenge the strategy allows you to
successfully complete the lesson, introduce new ideas and encourages
class participation.


Adult classes consist of many ages and the students learned math
using different strategies.   They may not be resisting; the
technique is probably new to the student.


Turning the students resistance to a challenge usually enhances my classroom experience.


Danny


Danny, I'm curious about this.  Could you give us an example?


Kate Nonesuch

Victoria, BC


I think that finding materials and strategies that you believe in yourself
is really important. If I go into a class thinking, "The students are going
to hate doing this and it's going to be a struggle," then I'm not as
convincing. The students recognize that my heart's not in it, and they're
more likely to resist because they think they can talk me out of it.

I've had great luck with the EMPower math books by Key Curriculum Press.
They're not perfect (nothing is.), but I find that my students are much more
willing to do hands-on activities, write down their thoughts in words, and
draw pictures and diagrams if these things are included in the textbook.
Even when I bring in methods and activities that are not in the book, the
students are more open to them because they're already used to doing similar
things.

When I started switching curriculums, and now on an as-needed basis, I would
bring up the fact that most people are in my classes because the old way of
teaching math didn't work for them. Most students will agree with this,
since most of them hated math class the first time around. So, why should we
keep trying the same thing if we've seen that it doesn't work? Why not at
least give something else a chance? Also, even if the class is on board, I
do periodically take a minute to explain why a certain exercise is
helpful/important, and I ask my students what activities and methods work
best for them. I think that transparency is incredibly important because
many of my students are people who are used to being subject to the
unexplained, seemingly arbitrary restrictions of various bureaucratic
agencies. If I allow them to ask questions and challenge me, and if I share
my thoughts and motivations with them, I can earn their trust. Then we can
really get somewhere.

Rachel Baron, Instructor

Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council


I'm finding all your comments really helpful and interesting.

In my class we have a range of levels from around grade 2 to
GED(which seems to me to be about grade 7/8 as far as math skills
required). We have students who are just transitioning from the
street--so attendance for some is extremely sporadic, while a couple
have perfect attendance.

We're also developing a math resource that uses manipulatives and
relevant northern examples as much as possible. Although the resource is
targeted for the lower level student, we decided to ask all the
students to work through it this year. I was fortunate that some of the
more advanced students who worked more quickly did see the value of
manipulatives, and seeing some of the stronger students use them made
the weaker students feel less self-conscious about it. I keep them in a
box at the front of the classroom and the students are now in the habit
of getting what they want (or ordering me to!) So they are mainly
working independently, but still using the mainpulatives. Sometimes I
think teaching the group would be more efficient, but with the
attendance and the range of levels, this just seems to work better for
me.

On believing in the materials yourself, I couldn't agree more. I've
become more confident that using manipulatives really works, so if
student is struggling, I just pull out some bingo chips, fake money, or
tape measure and try to explain with that. The studens still complain,
but more joking than resisting. One student even borrowed a tape measure
so she could measure her window to buy material to make curtains. That
really felt like success to me.

Miriam Green

Curriculum Development Coordinator

Native Women's Association of the NWT


I keep manipulative containers on each table.  I show the
students the manipulatives, stressing both conceptual and procedural
learning.  The students that need or like or prefer the
manipulatives have the containers handy.  There is no pressure from
me or other students.

 

Kathie Daviau
https://sites.google.com/a/billingsschools.org/daviauk/


If your students are reluctant to use manipulatives, you might tell
them that EVERYONE started learning math by using some concrete,
physical example.

You might use the story (as I remember it - I think I heard it on a
PBS show) of the question Einstein asked himself that eventually led to
the theory of relativity:

Einstein was about 14 when he was riding on a train. As he was
looking out the window, he asked himself, "What would the world look
like if I were riding on a beam of light?" [My hunch: He was not
focusing on any particular object and everything was going by in a
blur.]

That simple question about the nature of light led to the theory of
relativity, the idea Einstein if famous for. The point is - It all
started with the personal physical experience of looking out
the window on a train ride. Using manipulatives is no different. Once
we have a personal physical experience to latch on to, our minds
continue to play with it, processing it at a more and more abstract
level. Those abstractions are the math concepts that underlie the
"number skills" that most people call math. The "skills" are really in
the service of the concepts.

If we can tune students into this sequence of how they can grow into
a better understanding of math, then they should have no question
about manipulatives as first examples of math ideas.

Dorothea Steinke

Developmental math & GED math


I agree with you Dorothy that students "should have no question about manipulatives as first examples of math ideas," but in my experience, some do resist. 

I'm going to push you all a little bit here, since it's mid-week and
we've been talking about this subject for a couple of days:

Resistance to the kinds of strategies we've been talking
about--social and holistic ways of teaching math--takes many
forms.  Sometimes students just mutter under their breath,
sometimes they do what is asked in a very passive or perfunctory way,
sometimes they express their resistance by asking "Do we have to do
this?" or "Why do we have to do this?" Sometimes they take one look and
don't come back.

Several people so far have mentioned strategies to get people to use
manipulatives, including giving examples such as your Einstein story,
talking about brain research, giving people choices, and I think they
all are useful in making students part of the teaching team, that
is, letting them in on how learning occurs and on their own particular
strengths and needs.

BUT  I want to say something much more radical here.

I want to embrace and honour student resistance. 

I would much rather a student said, "I don't like to do math this way," rather than just drop out.

I LOVE it when someone says loud enough for the whole class to hear, "This is stupid. Why do we have to do it?"

For more on this, here's a quote from a study by Arleen Pare:

"This study suggests not only that instructors need to expect and
recognize resistance in ABE, but also that they can and should
encourage the more conscious and verbal types of resistance. Resistance
should be encouraged not only because it is socially just, but also
because it contributes to an improved learning context, to student
retention and institutional success."

Pare, Arleen Lyda (1994). Attending to Resistance: An Ethnographic Study of Resistance and Attendance in an Adult Basic Education Classroom. Retrieved January 12, 2011, from http://www.nald.ca/library/research/attendng/cover.htm  

Kate Nonesuch

Victoria, BC


Kate - I don't quite get it - what exactly did Arleen  figure
out? That the noisiest students about their resistance, got over their
resistance or that they were also the most"involved" so when they
eventually applies that to the work, they learned better. How does this
verbal objecting contribute to an"improved learning context"? (I
notice that this email sounds a bit "resistant"!)

Evelyn


Thanks, Evelyn, for your question.  And thanks for saying that
you might be a bit "resistant." I was getting a little  worried,
because I said in my last message on this topic that I was going to
push the discussion a little, and suddenly things got very quiet on the
list.  I see by your reply that I might have been more helpful if
I had given more info. Pare was not dealing specifically with student
resistance to new ways of teaching math; rather she was looking at
student resistance to being put into a position of relatively little
power, the kind of situations they remember from school. So many of my
students came into class wanting to "get ahead," but dreading at the
same time that the program and the teachers would force them back into
being told what to do, and of having to jump through meaningless hoops.
Her observations were made in a classroom where the teachers
encouraged students to notice issues of power and status, and to
speak out against stereotyping of groups based on levels of education,
gender, race, etc. Pare’s study was based on 60 hours of observation
over a three month period  in one adult literacy class (17
students), which she videotaped, plus interviews with students and the
two teachers who taught the class.

She noticed and counted five types of resistance behaviours:

1.      Withdrawal: a student was a silent
non-participant (e.g., head on desk, came late, left early, etc.
)  

2.      Awareness:  a student said
something to indicate that they remembered/noticed that  they had
been badly treated in situations where they felt powerless 

3.      Challenging:  a student challenged an action of their classroom teachers

4.      Assertion: a student explicitly expressed their right to have their voices heard.

5.      Solidarity: a student made a
connection with another person or group in a position of less power.

She noted that the teachers encouraged resistance of types 2 to 4.

She kept track of attendance over the time of her observations, and found that:

o     7 students who attended more than half the
time, and who were still in attendance at the end of her observation
period, were the students who exhibited the most frequent and most
varied resistant
       behaviours of the types 2 – 5.

o     5 “sporadic” attenders who attended less
than 50% of the time, but were still coming at the end of the
observation period, exhibited hardly any resistant behaviour.

o     5 students who dropped out entirely
generally exhibited only the withdrawal type of resistant behaviour.

“More verbally expressive and more frequent resistance behaviour
seems related to more regular attendance in this ABE classroom. These
results suggest a positive association between conscious, active
resistance and regular attendance. It also suggests that the more that
conscious resistance is encouraged, the more likely it is that regular
attendance will result” (Pare, 107). 

Pare concludes that student retention increases when students feel
accepted as they are, the classroom is receptive to all kinds of
student input, student resistance to being told what to do is
encouraged, and diversity and democracy are valued.

Pare, Arleen Lyda (1994). Attending to Resistance: An Ethnographic Study of Resistance and Attendance in an Adult Basic Education Classroom. Retrieved January 13, 2011, from http://www.nald.ca/library/research/attendng/cover.htm

Kate Nonesuch

Victoria, BC


Thanks Kate - that helps. I was aware when i was teaching that in
many ways we asked the studetns to behave in very middle class ways
(particularly around politeness). A student who cooperated had to often
give up who she was in many ways including class and culture issues,
so it makes sense that if they are asserting their right to resist and
question, they are asserting their right to be who they are in other
ways as well.

Cheers,

Evelyn


I have tried having a conversation with my student(s) who is
resisting -particularly if they want worksheets about how well the
worksheets worked for them the last time. Usually they answer with
something that indicates they blame themselves for not trying hard
enough or "goofing off' ( a cover for many things - often untenable
living situation at home). I then try to say they might think about was
it really their fault or the fault of the teaching method? Well you
can see where the conversation might go from there. I usually end up
with if this method doesn't work - the same situation applies - it might
be the method - let's try it and see. But Yes - it is their choice - I
remember some wasted time in the students’ lives when I tried to
cheerleader them into trying something and they didn't feel they could
say no!

Sorry this is sort of rambly but do you get the idea?

Evelyn


‘Day 2: The Power of "NO!"

Thanks to the people who replied to my first discussion starter; I
appreciate the time and effort you took to post such thoughtful
replies. Since I live on the west coast, I'll post the second topic
tonight, so you early birds on the east coast will get it long before
I'm awake tomorrow.

Linda writes that she simply can't get some students to use
manipulatives, no matter what she tries. That has been my experience,
too-some students just refuse.

Which brings me to the power of "NO!" When someone says, "Do we have
to do..." I always say, "No, of course not. You make the decisions
about what you will do and what you won't do."

There are some tactical reasons for accepting the student's "No!"
For example, if I say "Yes, you do have to do it," we are in the middle
of a power struggle.  I don't want to be in a power struggle-I
want to be teaching, and no math is taught or learned during a battle
of wills.

Mainly, though, I accept the student's "No!" because of the
principle of the thing.  No one can really say "Yes," if she or
he does not have the right to say "No." I want students to
wholeheartedly embrace those 13 strategies I quoted yesterday from
Ginsburg and Gal. I want them freely to say, "Yes, I'll try it," not
just sullenly to go along with it because that's what the teacher says.

Some people don't agree with me. They think I'm too soft, and that
students have to buck up and do things they don't want to do. How much
do you agree with those critics?

I know it seems risky just to say "your decision" when a student
balks at using manipulatives or doing group work, or making a diagram
to help figure out a problem. What risks do you see?  How might
it make your job harder to give students this control?  How might
it make your job easier? If your students really had the power to say
"No" to your suggestions about how they should learn, what would they
say "Yes" to? 

Kate Nonesuch

Victoria, BC


Because we are working with adults and they are generally in our
programs because they have chosen to do so, we are in a very different
position than a public school math teacher. Demanding that they use
some tool is not a way to encourage or win friends; after all, they are
adults.

Firstly, 90% of my students have not had positive experiences in the
past as children/teens. Of those who have, many did not enjoy math.
They have phobias, and most say, " I can't do math." Then my job is to
help them prove they can.

They will often say "yes" to those things that will help them with
'real life' problems-their banking, grocery shopping, budgetting, and
helping their kids. Parents, whose kids are a couple of grade levels
behind them will usually fear the child will have math problems, too.
So....using tools they might not want to use for themselves but might
work for their kids is a motivation. They have to learn to use them
first in order to help the children. Some then borow things to take
home.

Personally, I am one who loved school, but I did not have positive
math experiences after grade 8. So, at that point I became resistant.
If it didn't have an algorithm, I became terrified and almost paralyzed
with fear. I expect my teachers were not experimental at all, and we
had no manipulatives, calculators, etc. from which to choose.

Linda Thorsen, Instructor

VCLA


I always like it when the choice I offer makes clear the advantages
of the strategies I want to introduce.  I know I got good results
when I offered the 10-page set of questions that dealt with operations
with fractions.  "You can do this 10 page set, using the
manipulatives to show me each answer, or you can do the 133 page
workbook.  Your choice."


And I take your point about our students often having little choice in other areas of their lives.


Kate Nonesuch

Victoria, BC


I would go further. As a teacher I don't grant my students the power
to say "No." Instead, I recognize that they have that power whether I
like it or not. In its starkest terms it must be true. They are under no
compulsion to attend classes; they can therefore be under no compulsion
to participate in learning strategies. But then the question (usually)
becomes, "How will this affect my grade?" To that my standard reply is
that the grade is unimportant. (Since I teach GED classes, it really is
unimportant.) What is important is that learning take place. I put the
burden of responsibility on them. "If you can learn this without
following the strategy, great! Do it."

Chip Burkitt


I agree with you, Chip, about going further.  So much of the
language we use disguises the fact that students have the power. 
Words like "empowerment" and "making the student responsible for
his/her learning" and "giving students responsibility" make it seem
like it is ours to give, when in fact all we can do is recognize that
they already have it.


We need some new terms to describe the situation we're talking about. Any suggestions?


For me, the big payoff of accepting their "NO!" comes in the moment
after I say "Of course you don't have to...(whatever)."  The
stress they feel about confronting me, refusing to do something,
immediately leaves them.   Sometimes they are surprised by my
reaction, but nearly always they are relieved. And in that moment I can
begin again: "So, that method won't work for you.  So let's
figure out some strategy that will work."


Kate Nonesuch

Victoria, BC


  *   using estimation skills-{students want to get
the 'right' answer} (We try looking at questions in the GED book, as
the GED is the goal of most students. Because most of the GED math
testing is multiple-choice and the test is timed, students see the
benefit of this skill. They can eliminate answers by estimation and
often find the closest to the exact answer quickly. This is a real
incentive for them.)

They will often say "yes" to those things that will help them with
'real life' problems-their banking, grocery shopping, budgetting, and
helping their kids. Parents, whose kids are a couple of grade levels
behind them will usually fear the child will have math problems, too.
So....using tools they might not want to use for themselves but might
work for their kids is a motivation. They have to learn to use them
first in order to help the children. Some then borow things to take
home.

Linda Thorsen, Instructor


I've put together a couple of your comments here, Linda, which seem
to me to highlight that you are working with some real world motivation
your students have, that might lead them to try some "new" strategies.



The fact that many of our students are parents who are worried about
their kids success often gives me something to hook a new
teaching/learning strategy to.  This led me to produce Family Math Fun!,
not because I am particularly interested in kids learning math, but
because I am interested in parents feeling confident about helping
their kids with math.


Kate Nonesuch

Victoria, BC


Kate, that was such a wonderful resource. Thanks for sharing. You
always have wonderful ideas. Everyone has wonderful ideas. I feel that
our enthusiasm and the way we present things can make the attitudes
better. Have the students try teaching to someone else in the class.
Sometimes, they are more willing to try using the manipulative then.
Just my thoughts.

Kathy

Camp Verde Adult Reading Program

Have a good day!!


I'd like to point out that we seem to be talking about student
autonomy, which is one of three powerful motivators (autonomy, mastery,
and purpose) that Daniel Pink discusses in his book Drive. Students who
feel that their autonomy is recognized and supported will put more
effort into learning than those who are made to feel they have no
choice. Humans love learning. In fact, you can't stop learning from
taking place; you can only try to direct it.

Chip Burkitt

Saint Paul, MN


As a former alternative ed teacher (and current ABE/GED teacher), I
have found that the troublemakers I had in class often had very little
control over their lives at home.  If given the choice, most
chose do the right thing, but they had to be given the choice. 
Without choices, schools and education are just more of what got them
into trouble or convinced them to drop out.


I can usually limit the choices--Do you want to do it this way or
this [other] way--but it is a choice, and that is what's important.

Sharon Martin

Oklahoma


I have taught from PK to the university level (distant learning
program of adults pursuing a Computer  Administration Career later
in their life). From what I had experienced, most “NO” behaviors
 start during the early childhood experience opportunities and
approaches the student has had. As teachers, some of us will teach a
subject(s) we hated when young, been the most hated: Math. The same
feeling towards the subject is been transmitted to students (young or
adults) when we teach them. I had this experience as a student, until
 the 8th grade where I had a math teacher that was fear by
everyone at school. He always said: “Math has different paths  to
get to the same point (answer). You may take any path different from the
one I teach you, as long as you can prove the reason why you took that
path, the answer is accurate and it can be replicated, I cannot tell
you NOT to do it.” By saying this, he empowered us to find ways that
could be easier for us and took the fear out of one way or no other way
to solve problems. He took out the fear for math.

Others have experienced the rush of covering the curriculum,
throwing information to the students and not giving them time to sort
out the information given and find it meaningful in their lives, is just
a matter of covering content and pushing students to a higher level
content. Speaking of, this week I received a math homework for my PK
daughter. She had to write the time of 4 analog clocks to the hour, and
half hour. I am not against of exposing them to higher curriculum, but
just throwing to them content with the thought of advancing them in
content knowledge acquisition without taking into consideration age
appropriateness, it  can develop in the child a frustration feeling
that will create a resistance to math later in their life, as a
protection mechanism to failure. Here is when we start hearing the “NO”
more often than expected.

Students often have a negative perception to any math process until
they find a way to find it meaningful and are able to solve it, then
they have overcome the inner ‘NO’ to math. Is our job as educators to
provide the student with different tools to solve/find the answer to
the problem in front of them. We need to take into account the multiple
intelligence approach and present the same content in different ways.

Blanca J.P. Cuestas

Spring, TX


Hello Blanca--

You bring up another of the motivators that Chip mentioned
yesterday--mastery. I have noticed how quickly a small series of
successes seems to build confidence and foster a more positive stance
towards the next math challenge.

Our students have often missed the chance to learn math concepts,
over-learn them, and learn them to mastery because the teacher and
other students were moving at a faster pace than they were
comfortable with.  

Kate Nonesuch

Victoria, BC


Day 3: Making Learners Part of the Teaching

Team

To those of you who are reading, but haven't posted yet, I hope you
will agree with me about the richness and breadth of the ideas posted
in this discussion so far.  To those who have shared their ideas,
thank you.   

I`d like to hear some stories today, both success stories and horror
stories.  Do you ask students to evaluate the teaching strategies
you use?  Do you help learners figure out their own learning
styles or multiple intelligences? How do you get them to reflect on
themselves as learners?  Have you tried journals?  

I had planned to talk about making students part of the teaching
team for our third day of this discussion about using new teaching and
learning strategies, but I have discovered that many of you have said
what I planned to say, so I have quoted you below.

Rachel Baron:  I ... bring up the fact that most people are in
my classes because the old way of teaching math didn't work for them.
Most students will agree with this, since most of them hated math class
the first time around. So, why should we keep trying the same thing if
we've seen that it doesn't work? Why not at least give something else a
chance? Also, even if the class is on board, I do periodically take a
minute to explain why a certain exercise is helpful/important, and I
ask my students what activities and methods work best for them. 

Evelyn Battell: I have tried having a conversation with my
student(s) who resist-particularly if they want worksheets-about how
well the worksheets worked for them the last time. Usually they answer
with something that indicates they blame themselves for not trying hard
enough or "goofing off' ( a cover for many things - often untenable
living situation at home). I then try to say they might think about was
it really their fault or the fault of the teaching method?  Well
you can see where the conversation might go from there. 

Miriam Green: I was fortunate that some of the more advanced
students who worked more quickly did see the value of manipulatives,
and seeing some of the stronger students use them made the weaker
students feel less self-conscious about it. 

Pat McKinley ...since these problems are coming from real life
materials that they may encounter in real life there seems to be less
resistance. 

Linda Thorsen: They will often say "yes" to those things that will
help them with 'real life' problems-their banking, grocery shopping,
budgeting, and helping their kids.

Susan Jones: "I have no idea! Tell me!" sends up my "passive
learner" flags and I work to engage the student in building something
out of what they already know... especially since that also encourages
engagement of language about the math. ... I have the advantage of
being able to say "okay, if that's not working, why?" (when students
tell me that the instruction is too ... whatever...) They generally
*do* have an opinion that I can work with.

Respecting the resistance just makes a ton of sense.  

Barbara Caballero: I think that the students feel respected when we
let them in on new research; they feel like they're contributing when
they realize that their participation helps me and my teaching.

If you want to see what I have to say about making learners part of
the teaching team, see pages 23-24 of my article in Focus on Basics,
beginning on page 23, ``Get students on board.`` http://www.ncsall.net/fileadmin/resources/fob/2008/fob_9a.pdf#page=20

Kate Nonesuch

Victoria, BC


Hi all,

If you are just now joining us, please visit:http://lincs.ed.gov/lincs/discussions/numeracy/11strategies
for full information on our present discussion ""Dealing with
Student's Reactions to New Teaching Strategies" Please send your
questions and comments to the List now.

To post, send your message to: numeracy@lincs.ed.gov

You can read the discussion in a couple of ways:

1. Join us here in real time to read and/or add your voice to the conversation;

2. Receive the daily posts in digest format so you can read them at the end of the day

3. Read the discussion in the Math and Numeracy List archives you do not need to be subscribed to read the daily archives)

4. Read the discussion transcript once the discussion has closed - I
prepare the transcript in user-friendly format so that it can

subsequently be used in a variety of ways; I will post the transcript
on the LINCS website; it usually takes me a week or two to prepare it.

Any questions!? Please don't hesitate to contact me.

Thanks,

Brooke Istas, Moderator

LINCS Math & Numeracy List


Friday is the last day of this discussion, and I'm curious to know
what else you'd like to talk about in relation to dealing with students
reactions to new strategies for teaching and learning math.  So
comments or questions would be helpful to me as I plan for the final
day.

On day 4, however, I'd like to talk about feelings and emotions, and the part they play in students work in math.

The head that comes to learn math is attached to a heart, and cannot
function except as the heart influences how much and what kind of work
the head can do. Similarly, the head that comes to teach math is
attached to a heart, and functions only in relationship to that heart,
no matter how hard the head tries to deny or bury the emotions.

All those hearts crammed into a single room, dealing with that most
difficult subject, math. And all of us math teachers, not usually
trained to deal with emotions.

I've got a couple of videos to suggest you watch today-real teachers
teaching real adult students real math. And a scenario from my own
classroom that I'll post in a separate message.  

If you have time, watch the two short videos from MLOTS (Media
Library of Teaching Skills) linked below. What emotions do you think
the students and teachers are feeling? How does the social aspect of
these learning situations affect the emotions in the room? What do
these two teachers do to foster "positive" emotions in the classroom?
What is the importance of learners having good relationships with each
other?

Elana Feder Positive and Negative Numbers  http://mlots.org/Elana/Elana.html

Abby McGee  Ratio and Proportion  http://mlots.org/abby/abbypage.html

Kate Nonesuch

Victoria, BC


I do express my feelings to my students, especially if I am going
through a difficult time, feeling ill or am feeling especially happy. I
do not share personal details by any means, but just to let them know
that there are things going on and if I’m shorter than normal or seem
out of sorts, this is why. They understand bad days, and it helps keep
an element of trust in the classroom. My body language displays my
emotions like an open book, so I need the class to know that I’m not
upset with any of them. This also opens the door for the students to
come talk to me if they need to – a two-way communication channel.

The teacher has feelings too.

Your feelings will show, whether you say anything or not, but most
learners (like the rest of us) will assume that they are the cause of
your feelings, especially if you look irritated or frustrated. This
assumption will have negative repercussions in your relationship. 

Scenario:  I'm in the middle of teaching and the learner asks
me to explain something again (still doesn't get it after the third
time); I'm about to start the explanation when I notice the clock and
suddenly remember that I have to cut this session short for an
emergency meeting about a crisis in my department. All my feelings
about the meeting come over me--worry, anger, confusion, fear, etc.
These feelings show on my face or in my body--tight lips, far away
look, hunched shoulders, sweaty palms, etc. If I give a hurried
explanation and rush the learner out, he will likely assume that I am
angry with him because he asked for more explanation, and that I think
he is stupid, and that he may be stupid! He will think twice before he
asks me for help again, and all my work to establish a safe atmosphere
for him to ask questions will vanish.

One of my strategies for maintaining good relations with the learner
is to say how I feel. So I try it. "Oh, I'm sorry I forgot to tell
you. I'm going to have to leave early today. There's a big meeting
coming up, and just the thought of it has made me upset, as you can
see. Give me a minute to calm myself down, and we'll make a plan. I
want to be sure you get some help with this question; I'm really glad
you asked for help now, and didn't go home to be frustrated with it
there."

I can take a minute to settle myself and then the learner and I can
figure out what to do so he gets the help and I get to my meeting. My
relationship with him is stronger rather than weaker: we have worked
together to solve the problem of when/how to give him help; I have
shown that I'm human; and he doesn't get the false idea that I think he
is stupid or that his questions are a bother.

Even after years of practice I still find it hard to express my
feelings to learners. Do you have the same difficulty?  Are some
kinds of feelings harder to express than others? What are the benefits
and dangers you see in saying how you feel?

And just for fun: Teacher breaking down. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bsrBQ6AGo_g.

Kate Nonesuch

Victoria, BC


Hello Kate and Fellow Instructors:

I am a Family Literacy Adult/Parent Educator from Central
Pennsylvania in an open enrollment program for the Central Susquehanna
Intermediate Unit. I have been in this position four years and love
it!  In addition to ABE instruction, I incorporate parenting,
early childhood ed, and parent/child shared learning activities into a
student's time in my classroom. I have been following the
discussion and comments this week after I am done teaching for the day.

Feelings, whether they are mine or my students, are a major factor in
how the day of learning progresses! Parents (Feelings Part 1 )bring
every emotion with them to class depending on what is going on at home.
So even before we may encounter stress or frustration in learning math
concepts, we must deal with how the morning or last evening played out
in their lives.

This is where I have an advantage over a "standard" ABE classroom.
Many days I have anywhere from 1 to 6 students attending. But whether it
is 1 or 6 students, we start our time together sharing whatever! One of
the four components of Family Literacy is Parenting. I have an
unconventional classroom philosophy that many of my colleagues do not
agree with where students' feelings are concerned: I have a welcoming
room setup with drinks and healthy snacks available and we sit down for
the first 15-20 minutes and visit!I tell my students they need to feed
their minds and souls in order for learning to take place.

Addressing issues/feelings, either through talking or journaling,
may allow students to find a way to deal with those issues and take
them off the table during our class time.I consider myself a good
listener, in socializing or teaching situations.& This has helped me
to walk in my students shoes when I am trying to teach not only math
but also writing, reading, social studies, or science. The former areas
of discussion on using manipulatives, identifying learning styles, and
just getting to know your students all go to learning taking place.

I believe and tell my students that if they are becoming frustrated
with what they are studying to walk away, give it a rest, or switch to
another subject. Or I may, for example, go back to an associated area I
know they enjoy working on and have been successful at (ratios and
percents are frustrating them; however, I know they do well and like
fraction word problems so we will switch to that.

Reinforcing that feeling of understanding/success, usually sets the
stage for a positive reaction in trying something more challenging!Thank
you for letting me share!

Susan Rosinski

CSIU Family Literacy Program

Parent/Adult Educator

CSIU Milton Adult & Family Learning Center


Susan - I noticed your comment at the end about students getting frustrated.

  -  "ratios and percents are frustrating them;
however, I know they do well and like fraction word problems so we
will switch to that"

It's not the frustration I'm going to address. It is the idea that
ratios and percents are something very different from fractions.

Fractions are a form of ratios. (Ratios can compare part to part OR part to whole; fractions only compare part to whole).

Percents are a form of fraction written in a different way.
The denominator  in percents is always 100; it is written
with a different symbol.

OK - I'm expecting flak about these comments. But think about it.
Part of the number sense we want students to have is being able to see
that when they need to find 50% of something they might find it easier
to multiply by 1/2 or divide by 2.

It's all about number relationships.

Dorothea Steinke

GED, developmental math

Front Range Community College, Westminster, CO


And thank you for sharing, Susan!

I think what you say illustrates so well how the different things we
have discussed this week are so closely connected that it's very
difficult to separate the threads-- a student who can "Take
his his feelings off the table" during class because you have
offered a chance to talk at the beginning; your ability to listen helps
students be clear about what works best for them. 

I think that up front talk about walking away when things are
frustrating is so useful.  I have a one minute rule--if you're
feeling frustrated for one minute, you have to stop.  You can ask
for help, or just go do something else.  This applies especially
when people are doing homework.  THere is nothing worse than
someone who sits for half an hour at home being frustrated and then
brings those feelings to class the next day.

I have heard that some teachers give out their home numbers and say
studnets should call rather than be frustrated, but I've never gone
that far!

Kate Nonesuch

Victoria, BC


This is, again, something that varies a lot with individuals but is
usually about five times as important as I give it credit for ;)

There are a couple of layers of this:  there's the General
Attitude that the student brings in.  Is Math to be understood or
to be endured?   Most of 'em are looking for the latter, and
there are huge fear and confidence barriers between there and the
"understanding" thing.

I think many of the students may still be at the "okay, this is what
the teacher wants, this is what I need to do to get through this
minute of this day."  Some of 'em waited 'til somebody did enough
for them to follow along... and saw taht okay, it was counting, maybe
in a weird direction, and the ones with the dashes went
together.  

SO, I'm curious, when a students says the "this is stupid! Why do I
have to do this?" how do you respond?   Perhaps, "You don't
-- but let's talk about why it seems stupid, and why you might want
to?"   I think when pondering the "do I *make* 'em do
things?" question, to recognize that if their emotional need is simply
to DELAY THE MATH DELAY THE MATH DELAY THE MATH, then I'm going to ask
them to humor me and do *something.*   (Still, hearing myself,
I'm giving them the choice.) That said, one of our more effective
teachers is extremely rigid -- your binder will be arranged thusly, not
a page out of place, and the door closes at 9:00, but a certain kind
of student LOVES it because you know exactly what she expects, and she
has very effective, structured, organized, multisensory teaching
methods.   Students who really, simply *don't know* the math
do well; the returning student who has gaps that landed with that 094
placement and a life that sometimes means s/he can't do *all* the
homework every night ... doesn't fare as well.

If I can't get past Big General Attitude issues, then it's hard to
get to the other layers... the "okay, if I talk about this and really
explore knowing it, you'll realize what I don't know and realize I'm
much too stupid to be here" issue.  Manipulatives, I think, can
help with that because students don't have to verbalize as much.
However, depending on the student, a little or some or maybe a whole lot
of verbal integration is really necessary for things to really make
sense and be rememberable.   IMO one of the biggest problems
with manipulatives is that we don't hammer down the bridge between them
and "Math Problems."   

I'm hoping this makes *some* sense, being done while helping
students with fractions and registration and computers on this first
week of classes.

Susan Jones

Academic Development Specialist

Center for Academic Success

Parkland College
http://www.resourceroom.net
http://www.bicycleuc.wordpress.com


Thanks for the question, Susan, and for your insights about
feelings. When a student says, "This is stupid.  Why do I have to
do this?"

First,  I say, "You don't.  You absolutely don't have to
do it.  You make the decisions about what you'll do and how you'll
learn math."

Second, I make sure that is well understood before I go on, because
usually the student who says that is expecting me to react, either
angrily to the first part (stupid) or patiently to the second part
(reasons). So I may say that probably they have not heard
many math teachers say that they have control over that decision.
It gets their attention. Maybe there is a little laugh.

Third, I say thank you for voicing the objection. It makes my
job easier when students are vocal about what they want and don't want,
what's useful and not useful. I do better work when I don't have to
guess.

Then I have a conversation to try to narrow down what it is
they don't want to do.  Have they decided never to do any math
again, and they are going to drop the class?  (Usually not the
case, but sometimes it is, in which case I wish them well.) In the
conversation we come to some understanding.  For
example, that they want to get credit for this level, or they want to
do the GED, or ...) I state what they need to do for them to
get their goal.  For example, "To pass this level, you have
to be able to do all the operations with fractions, and show that you
can use fractions to solve some problems."  THen we get back to
what it is they don't want to do.  I give them the other
options I'm prpared for (different manipulatives, workbook,
computer program, working with a tutor...) and offer to think up
some more options if they can give me some ideas about what will work
for them.

However, this whole conversation goes well only if
the feelings are dealt with by my actions at First, Second and Third in
the paragraphs above. As you say, Susan, about five times more
important than we think.

I like it best when it happens in front of the whole class, because
it saves time.  For sure everyone listens to my answer,  so I
don't have to do it in private for two or three students! And studnets
who are listening, who would never dare to say "why do we have to do
this?" get to see that I expect them to make some decisions about their
learning.

I'm going to write a little more about this for the Day 5 discussion starter. 

  

Kate Nonesuch

Victoria, BC


... I did find it surprising that the teacher had the number line facing her.  

I am thinking of putting up a big fat vertical number line in here,
and then embellishing it with slidable thingies so as to be able to
feel and touch those operations.  P'raps I'll get one of my guys
who's good with that kind of thing to make it rotatable ;)  And
perhaps I'll make it with different inserts so that it could be just
whole numbers, anotehr insert for integers, and anotehr for
fractions... 

Susan Jones

Academic Development Specialist

Center for Academic Success

Parkland College
http://www.resourceroom.net
http://www.bicycleuc.wordpress.com


In the interview with her at the same site, she talks about that same thing, and says she made a mistake.

Kate Nonesuch

Victoria, BC


I do express my feelings to my students, especially if I am going
through a difficult time, feeling ill or am feeling especially happy.
 I do not share personal details by any means, but just to let
them know that there are things going on and if I’m shorter than normal
or seem out of sorts, this is why.  They understand bad days, and
it helps keep an element of trust in the classroom.  My body
language displays my emotions like an open book, so I need the class to
know that I’m not upset with any of them.  This also opens the
door for the students to come talk to me if they need to – a two-way
communication channel

Krista Young


Susan, your class sounds like a great class to be in! I work at the
Native Women's Association of the NWT, and we also have food on hand, a
small kitchen; students come in and cook up a breakfast and the
atmosphere here feels really positive--most of the time!

The fact that the students all come in with such different
backgrounds and levels all over the map means that they are all working
independently at their own pace. Also as I mentioned earlier
attendance can be very sporadic so it's good to hear you're dealing with
that as well. I wonder how much of an issue this is with other ABE
classes?

Anyway, I tend to bring the students together rarely for math
lessons, partly because they're in a good routine with the independent
work, partly because they complain, though I'll do mini-lessons with a
few students who happen to be on the same topic or if there is one area
that needs review. 

Miriam Green

Curriculum Development Coordinator

Native Women's Association of the NWT


Attendance is my number one problem.  It didn't take me long,
as a GED teacher, to understand why students hadn't completed high
school: they didn't show up.

I have set up a scholarship fund that pays for the GED that requires
a commitment of 60 hours from the student.  Yes, I have to be a
fundraiser as well as a teacher, but I had to raise money for author
visits and art supplies in my public school classroom, so I
had training:).

Does anyone else have suggestions for motivating students to
attend?  I'd rather not hand out rewards for what they should be
doing in the first place.

Sharon Martin

Oklahoma


At our program we implemented a clear accountable attendance policy
and began enforcing it. Our attendance rate was averaging 30 percent.
Now we are nearing 80 percent overall attendance. High expectations
yield strong results.

Lynda


Lynda, can you share your attendance policy with us?

Jackie Kiefer

ABE Program Coordinator

GED Instructor

Dona Ana Community College


We put a lot of emphasis on intervention in the form of reaching out
and counseling students to help them face and mitigate barriers, but
in the end, we stick to our expectations.  We offer/direct
students to make up missed time in a tutorial lab outside of regular
class hours.  They have every opportunity to make the minimum
attendance threshold if they give it effort.  If they don’t we
withdraw them.  The policy attached sets the threshold for when we
will actually “act” on the intent to withdraw at 70% for ABE/ASE and
50% for ESL but we do not share that with the students.  We tell
them all that we expect 75% attendance and they are all stepping up to
that.  It is amazing to what lengths they will go to “arrange”
make-up time with their teacher.  Sometimes they come to the other
session of the class (if the student was in T/TH class and missed T
they will attend a W or F of the same class).  The students are on
board and if not, and if withdrawn, then they often return to
re-register and try it again, go on the wait list and come back
eventually with a new attitude about responsible attendance.

Lyn McCarty

Principal, Harrison Adult & Family Education

Harrison School District Two


Also,

How do you enforce the policy? What happens if a student does not attend as scheduled?

Anne

Anne K. Clay, Lead Instructor

Polk Adult Education

Georgia Northwestern Technical College


Ours is a free program (although they pay to take the GED), and
students are not sent to the program.  They come (or not) on their
own.  I would love to institute an attendance policy, but what
would be the consequences?  If you don't show up to class, you
can't come to class anymore?

Sharon


Yes, if you don’t show up you can’t come to class anymore.  One
cannot educate the dead and the absent.  Our program is free as
well, so it is even more important that we create a sense of value for
the privilege to attend.

Lyn McCarty

Principal, Harrison Adult & Family Education

Harrison School District Two


I chuckled at ,“one cannot educate the dead and the absent”, because
we are required to do just that. Our program is also free and I would
bet that all of our instructors would love to work in a program with an
attendance policy that creates a sense of value for the privilege to
attend.

Jackie


We have an attendance policy.  Students who miss more than 3
classes, without notifying the instructor, cannot return to class that
quarter.  We are on The Ohio State University campus and we are an
adult program for OSU employees and their families.  Our classes
run by the quarter – same as the university.  Many students have
work-release time to attend classes 2 days a week, so, there is more of
an obligation to attend.

Barbara Wookey

ABLE - Reach 1

The Ohio State University

Offices of Human Resources


Sharon,

I think this is something that we all struggle with—and it’s one of
the forms of resistance that Kate mentioned, too. One thing that I’m
trying to get better at is discussing attendance with students who are
on the verge of failing to meet our (very generous) attendance
requirement. One thing I’ve noticed is that students will almost always
blame themselves and/or circumstances beyond their control. Reading
these emails, I’m starting to wonder what would happen if I asked them
if there was something about the class itself that made it hard to
attend. Maybe that would help transform passive resistance into the
active kind that can be productive and help strengthen the relationship
between teacher and student?

I don’t know…maybe I’ll try it. By the time it gets to that point,
I’ve almost lost the student anyway, so how much could it hurt?

Rachel


I love the suggestion of asking the students if it is something
about the class that hinders their attendance.  And you're right,
there is little to lose at that point.

Sharon


When I taught Families That Work, some of the instructors had their
students put their name in a jar for each day they attended
class.  At the end of the week, there was a drawing for a $5.00
Walmart card.  I think that could get a little spendy though.

Creating that good work ethic is challenging, and attendance is a
key component for them to achieve success with their GED and transition
to college.  If there is a way to incorporate career exploration
into the class, students may be able to start thinking about their
future beyond the GED.  Good luck!

Tricia McIntosh

I-BEST Facilitator/Instructor

Grays Harbor College
http://ghc.ctc.edu/voc/ibest.htm


Another thought...

In I-BEST, students fill out a work habits daily point sheet. 
They get 5 points each day for showing up and being on time, as well as
completing all assignments.  They earn 0 pts if they don't show
up, -5 if they don't call ahead telling the instructor they will be
absent, - 3 points for being late or leaving early, and -1 if they
score less than 90% on an assignment. 

The ability to be accountable is a great skill to have.  Future
employers count on it.  Why shouldn't teachers?  Set the
standards high, and you'll be surprised how many adjust.

-Tricia


Tricia,

What a great lesson in signed numbers!  But I am curious--do
the obtaining of a certain level of points result in any
incentive.  I know in the ideal world it would be nice not to have
to try and provide extrinsic incentives, but in the real world I think
we have all heard of attendance bonuses or bonuses for those who work
in the private sector.

Cheryl Hagerty

MTC ABLE Coordinator


About the third week of class in October, I sent handwritten cards
of encouragement to my students and every one of them said how
much that meant to them and all of them have stayed in class! 
After that, I also made small loaves of banana bread at Thanksgiving
and brought candy I'd made and clementines (which were realatively
cheap and healthy and new to all my students) at Christmas. I
think the personal touch lets them know that I do care how they are
doing both as a student and a person.

Kate


Susan asked a question about what I would do when someone says,
“This is stupid.  Why do we have to do it?” and I replied.
However, I like to do some pre-emptive work so that things don’t often
get to that "stupid" stage.

On the first day of class, I say explicitly that students learn
differently, have different ways of learning, remember different kinds
of things from earlier school. In short, I expect they are all
different, and I expect that I will have to make adjustments to my
teaching methods to accommodate those differences. I say I will make
mistakes, especially in the first week. Until I get to know them, I will
ask them to do some things that are too hard, or too easy, or too much
hassle, and my mistakes will waste their time. They can help me get up
to speed by talking about what’s going well and what’s not going well.
Or they can not talk and I’ll stumble along until I figure it out.
Either way, it’s my job to find some ways to help them learn math. And
I’m good at my job. But I make mistakes. And the first time someone
says something like,“I already know how to do this,” I thank him/her,
acknowledge that I don’t know yet exactly where they’re at, and that I
need all the help I can get, in order to get up to speed.

This is the beginning of making them part of the teaching team. They
bring to the team something that I don’t have—a knowledge of themselves
and their history.

It took me a long time to get to the point of being easy about
letting go of that authority that comes with being a teacher. 
Letting go of it makes me more vulnerable. It shakes my pride, somehow,
to say out loud that I make mistakes, especially to a bunch of new
students at the beginning of the term.

I can see by the posts we’ve had so far this week that you are thoughtful, creative people. What
is it like for you to give up some of your authority as a teacher in
order to make room for students? What advice would you have for new
teachers on this topic?

Kate Nonesuch

Victoria, BC

Nonesuch, Kate (2006). Changing the Way We Teach Math. Retrieved January 14, 2011, from http://www.nald.ca/library/learning/mathman/cover.htm


Every student I've ever had has immense baggage-whether in regard to
learning or real life. Usually that's why they did not complete school.
There are disabilities, comparisons with family members, mental,
physical, emtional abuse, physical challenges, and so on. I believe with
my whole heart that levity, laughter, affirmation, respect and the fact
that we are peers are critical to providing a place where a student can
be away from the burdens of life for a few hours to just focus on
themselves is necessary before any learning takes place. In an
environment where the fact that they are there gives them the right to
have respect, they will begin to feel free to express themselves and
know that it's all OK, as long as they want to be there to learn. They
are courageous for returning to class as adults.

We laugh a lot and become like family, but we do work hard, as well.
Because we do not deal with discipline problem, we as instructors can
be far more relaxed and flexible. We find students receptive and
willing to try most things because they know it's all for them and
their progress and achievements.

Linda

Linda Thorsen, Instructor

VCLA


One of the items we cover in our program’s Basic Tutor Training is
explaining to volunteer’s why it is important to begin with easy
materials that will not over-whelm a new student. Most literacy
students are nervous and may not do well on assessment tests, but once
they meet with their tutor, the tutor may find the student is actually
at a higher level.

We suggest to our volunteers to begin tutoring new students by going
over materials that the student is comfortable with. Since most
literacy pairs stay together for 1 -2 years or more, it is important to
start with a trust between the tutor and student. Many students have
failed so often that we want each student to know that they will be
able to learn this time.  We all know that low self-esteem is
common with adult literacy students, beginning at lower levels builds
confidence.

Jacci

Jacci West, Executive Director

Wayne Pike Adult Literacy Program


I enjoy the opportunity to give up some of my authority as a teacher,
but find that they can be hesitant to take that role on
themselves. 

What you say is very true. They are the experts on their own history
and experiences, but their experiences have left them feeling far from
experts on anything. And to be honest, sometimes it has been so long
since they've done certain activities that, though they may think they
already know how to do it, they may not remember it as well as they
think they do. Also, on rare occasions, they may say they already know
how to do it as an avoidance tactic when it is something that they did
not enjoy or succeed at the first go round.

I've been teaching in the public school system since '96 but find
that I prefer the adult classroom because of this ability to give up
the authority and have them be partners in their learning.  For
one, they are generally here for a reason; whatever kept them from
achieving success the first time around, they have managed to move past
that and enter the classroom again.  This takes a great deal of
courage;  but I believe it also leads to more internal
motivation.  Ultimately, they have their own goals; their presence
in adult learning programs is not mandated or dictated by a higher
power.  As instructors, we have curriculum guidelines to follow to
assist in their achieving their goals, but this is not hard and fast,
sequenced, rule-based teaching.  In my experience, getting them
where they need/want to be is the goal, regardless of the route taken,
and including them in the decision-making process will make that trip a
lot smoother.

Thanks ...

Patti Huston


Respect has to be genuine. I treat my students as peers because I
actually regard them as peers. I admire adults who are willing to go
back to school and get a GED. I often imagine if I were in their shoes,
facing the demands they face and the circumstances in which they live,
I might just give up! But they keep going even when it's hard and even
when they don't feel like they are making any headway. That takes
courage, and I admire them for it.


Chip Burkitt


Hi, Kate and all.

I’ve been enjoying the conversation this week while wanting to find a
way in to ask about teaching math and numeracy to adult English
language learners. Now I think I’ve found it with this posting of
Kate’s (below)

Kate wrote: What is it like for you to give up some of your
authority as a teacher in order to make room for students? What advice
would you have for new teachers on this topic?

I’m wondering about giving up authority in the classroom it is
peopled with learners who want and expect you to be the authority on
everything. I  am assuming that they are probably in the numeracy
class not because they didn’t have success in 
K12 (elementary through secondary) contexts, but because they either
didn’t complete their education in their native country (or were unable
to even begin!) or they need credentials in the US or Canada. Do you
find these learners generally more resistant (or less) to the new
strategies? Do you find them open to hearing that the instructor doesn’t
know everything and learners are in charge of their own learning?
Thoughts and advice on this?

Thanks.

Miriam

Miriam Burt

Center Applied Linguistics


New teachers of adults need to be sensitive, above all, to the
possible barriers to math. Listening is key, whether to them as
individuals, or in small groups. Hear the failures and the damage due
to either insensitivites they have experienced, the lack of confidence
due to a huge time-lapse in schooling, real failures because of
differences in learning styles and teaching styles. We need to be
willing to be vulnerable ourselves in order to meet the needs these
people. Only then will they feel free to try and not fear not getting it
the first time, or try new methods without being looked at as
different.

Linda

Linda Thorsen, Instructor

VCLA


From Tricia McIntosh:

When I taught Families That Work, some of the instructors had their
students put their name in a jar for each day they attended
class.  At the end of the week, there was a drawing for a $5.00
Walmart card.  I think that could get a little spendy though.


Creating that good work ethic is challenging, and attendance is a key
component for them to achieve success with their GED and transition to
college.  If there is a way to incorporate career exploration into
the class, students may be able to start thinking about their future
beyond the GED.  Good luck!    ...


What a great lesson in signed numbers!  But I am curious--do
the obtaining of a certain level of points result in any
incentive.  I know in the ideal world it would be nice not to have
to try and provide extrinsic incentives, but in the real world I think
we have all heard of attendance bonuses or bonuses for those who work
in the private sector.

Kate Nonesuch


All our ABE/GED classes are open entry/open exit, and are
free.  We have tried to institute an attendance policy with
limited success, if at all.  Our students that are on Government
support must attend 3 full classes a week and they are closely
monitored.  Their monetary support is affected if they are dropped
from the class.  (Needless to say, the majority of them are only
motivated externally, and not internally to the degree we would like)

Our volunteer students come and go.  We tend to drop them if
they miss a full week, but as soon as they want to come back, they are
re-instated in the class.  If our classes ever get full enough to
the point of developing a waiting list, then they would be put at the
bottom of the list, but somehow there always seems to be room for one
more student in the classroom, so they are put back in very quickly.

I have no recommendations on how to improve the policy, but am just sharing what our situation is like.

Steven Ewert

Fresno Adult School


We have so many on the wait list, Steven, that we will definitely
under serve our community if we are not able to establish priorities
for enrollment.  Poor attendees go to the bottom of our
list.  If we had the luxury to reinstate them as soon as they
returned we would.  On the other hand, it’s really hard to teach a
defined curriculum when the cohort is constantly changing.  It
changes enough with just the mobility that we already have without the
drop in drop out crowd.

Lyn McCarty

Principal, Harrison Adult & Family Education

Harrison School District Two


We wrestle with the “revolving door” issue regularly and adjusting
(if possible) the curriculum to meet the needs of the students who
enter the class.  The problem we see with reinstating students
right away is that they see no consequences for behavior and
decision-making that leads to poor attendance.  If we talk about
the workplace and attendance policies there, the usual response is “I
will change when I get to that situation,” not recognizing that the
patterns each one establishes now carry over into the next phase of
life.  There is a large disconnect between school and work in
their minds.  Now, I recognize that I am generalizing, and that
there are plenty of exceptions.  However, There are enough
examples of this type of thinking to create attendance issues.

When contacting people who have stopped, I have been surprised how
many actually take responsibility for not being there, but seem to
think that is the way they are and cannot move past that.

Steve


Cheryl,

I-BEST is integrated basic education and skills training.  Many
of the students in welding are also getting help with basic skills and
developmental level math.  Because they are in a college program,
the points have a direct effect on their grade.  At the end each
week, students can figure out their points in terms of percentages
which equate to grades.  Students who want to suceed in the
welding program have to maintain a specific grade point average.

In my support class, I offer extra credit points which they can used
on their work habits pt sheet.  To earn extra credit, they have
to attend a basic skills support class at least 3 times per week and
score a 100% on a practice test.  Many attend daily.  All of
the math we do is directly related to the math they use in welding, so I
have their interest.  I have the majority of the welding program
participating in I-BEST and many of them take advantage of the
supports we offer them.  We have fewer students dropping out and
more are getting better grades.

We also tie it to what employers want.  Is the boss going to
pay you if you don't show up for work?  What if you are late or
leave early?  Will the boss want to pay you if you are there, but
don't do the work asked of you?  If you don't make progress and
learn on the job skills, will the boss keep you?  Will you get the
raise you want?

Tricia McIntosh

I-BEST Facilitator/Instructor

Grays Harbor College


Attendance is such a thorny issue because, as the comments below
show, there are many opposing, yet equally true, sides. It is true that
many of our students have very difficult lives and it is admirable
that they want to come to school, and that they manage to attend as much
as they do. It is equally true that we can't teach them if they don't
come, and that when they come sporadically they are more likely to be
unable to complete the term or level or program.

From my perspective, it's those sporadic attenders that cause me the
most trouble--I can work with the ones who come nearly every day, and I
don't have to work with the ones that don't come at all.

Pare's research showed that the sporadic attenders in the program
she studied were the ones who didn't express any resistance, while
those who were verbal about what they liked and didn't like were more
likely to attend regularly and stay to the end. (And in the program she
studied, teachers encouraged resistance.) So I encourage them to be
open about their resistance to what happens in the program.

Like Rachel (below) I find when I call students to ask them about
their absences, they blame something outside school (sick kids, car
broke down, etc.) or blame themselves. Often I have an idea about what
it is that's bothering them, so I try to give them an opening to talk
about what's going on in school. "I'm sorry to hear about your
daughter's flu. I was worried that ... (the class was going to fast for
you, or you weren't happy working in a group last time you were here, or
I didn't get around to help you as fast as you needed, or... whatever
my best guess is.)" It just makes an opening for them. Sometimes they'll
say what's bothering them, and then we can go into problem-solving
mode; often they say, "Oh, no, nothing like that. My daughter was sick
is all. I'll be back tomorrow." And they come back, and I get another
chance to encourage them to become part of the teaching team by saying
what works and what doesn't, and getting them more engaged in the whole
process.

And when someone's attendance is a problem for me, I try to make it clear what my
problem is, rather than implying that they are bad people. e.g., "When
you miss so much, I have a hard time catching you up when you come back.
I can do it if you only miss once in a while, but when you miss two
days out of three, I can't do my job very well. And I like to be good at
my job."

Kate Nonesuch

Victoria, BC


Good Evening Everyone!

This is Kate Nonesuch's final day as Guest Facilitator. I would
like to thank her for her time and for the invaluable information she
has given to each of us. I would also like to thank all of the
subscribers for their input and questions this past week; hearing from
the field is a great way for all of us to develop professionally, so
thank-you. Please feel free to carry on with the discussion but please
note that Kate will no longer be with us as a guest. I will be preparing
a user friendly transcript that will be posted on the LINCS website for
public use; but it may take a couple weeks before it is available. I
will post the link once it is accessible so that others may benefit from
this great discussion! Once again, thank you Kate! It has been a
delight having you as our first guest on the LINCS Math and Numeracy
List!

Brooke Istas, Moderator

LINCS Math and Numeracy List


Thanks, Brooke, for inviting me to be the guest moderator this
week.  I have found it a very interesting experience, and like
you, I think this kind of discussion is a great way to connect with
others in faraway places who are working in the same field, with many
of the same issues. The discussion was a rich source of ideas that I'll
have to think and write more about.  Thank you all for that.

I was very impressed with the thoughtfulness and attention all of
you put into your posts; and further impressed with diligence and care
that people showed in relation to their work and their students. Who
could read this discussion and be jaded or cynical about teachers?

And thanks to all of you who didn't post, but who read and thought and talked off line.  I did a lot of that myself.

As many of you know, I'm a subscriber to this list, so we'll keep on
meeting right here, I'll just go back to my usual role of reader and
occasional poster.

You know that being a facilitator or moderator means walking a tight
line between talking and encouraging others to talk, so there have been
many things I wanted to say but didn't/couldn't in the time frame we
had. So I'll just post these links here, for people who might want
more.

Nonesuch, K. (2009). Family Math Groups: An Exploration of Content and Style. http://www.nald.ca/library/research/fammatgro/fammatgro.pdf

--- (2008). Changing Practice, Expanding Minds. Focus on Basics 9(A), page 20. http://www.ncsall.net/fileadmin/resources/fob/2008/fob_9a.pdf#page=20

--- (2008). Family Math Fun! Vancouver Island University. http://www.nald.ca/library/learning/familymath/familymath.pdf

---. (2006). Changing the Way We Teach Math. Nanaimo, BC. Malaysian University-College.  http://www.nald.ca/library/learning/mathman/mathman.pdf

--- (2006). More Complicated Than It Seems: A Review of Literature about Adult Numeracy Instruction. http://www.nald.ca/library/research/morecomp/morecomp.pdf

--- "Putting Learners in Charge of Making Decisions." RaPAL Journal
(Research and Practice in Adult Literacy, Lancaster University) Spring
2005, p. 19. http://www.literacy.lancs.ac.uk/rapal/journal/RaPAL%2056.pdf

Kate Nonesuch

Victoria, BC