Sam's post on Participation Quizzes was the first model I ever heard about that felt harmonious with what I know about healthy collaboration. I love the idea of using formative assessment of a group's collaborative interactions as a lens for viewing the mathematical learning that was going on. But I also know myself well enough as a teacher to know that I need a clearer, more explicit framework in my head so I can be both clear and intentional about the skills I am cultivating and encouraging.
Fawn's epic and brilliant deconstruction of successful in-class activities the other day referenced a touchstone work that I too really value: Malcolm Swan's Improving Learning in Mathematics manifesto. This time through, though, I was struck by four skill areas for group work that Swan touches on but does not develop.
These, I have realized, form the basis of a set of group work skills I could envision developing into a rubric for participation quizzes as well as a set of foundational "collaboration literacy" skills I could wrap my mind and heart around.
Here are the four skill areas I am thinking about for the collaboration skills rubric, along with my early commentary and thoughts:
- SHARING SKILLS — in other words, developing a sense of inclusiveness as a member of a mathematical learning group. These skills include: demonstrating patience when others have difficulty putting their ideas into words; allowing others adequate time to express their own ideas; not moving on until everyone understands; and actively making sure that everyone understands why or how a piece of shared thinking/reasoning is so
- PARTICIPATING SKILLS — developing your own agency as a math learner (i.e., making your own personal contributions to the group's shared thinking). Skills include: overcoming shyness to share your thinking with the group; managing your desire to take the microphone more than your share of the time; genuinely "showing up" with your own unique insights and gifts as a thinker; encouraging and supporting others as they speak their ideas, confusion, or questions.
- LISTENING SKILLS — developing your own openness as a collaborator. Skills here include: listening actively and deeply; not simply waiting for your turn to talk; making eye contact with those who are speaking; asking clarifying questions; disagreeing respectfully; and agreeing and extending others' thinking.
- EXPLORATORY TALK SKILLS — developing your voice as a math learner and as a member of a learning group. The phrase "exploratory talk" comes from Swan's discussion (page 37), and I think it encapsulates the qualities we are looking for when we ask students to collaborate to develop a shared understanding. These are areas where I believe The Math Forum's work really shines. Skills here include: noticing and wondering; extracting information and a question; paraphrasing or rephrasing; acting out a problem; plus making explicit transitions from one topic to the next and preventing transitions from occurring until the whole group is ready to move on.
I am particularly excited about ways to integrate thinking from restorative practices into this framework for mathematical learning groups because I believe they hold a lot of promise for improving the quality of student interaction.
I hope there will be a vigorous discussion in the comments!