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ALL Improvement TeamsEquitable Groupwork (2017-18)Strategic Groupings, Relevance, and Co-Planning/Co-Teaching
Strategic Groupings, Relevance, and Co-Planning/Co-Teaching

Change Package
Strategic Groupings, Relevance, and Co-Planning/Co-Teaching

11/Mathematics at High Tech High Media Arts
By Joyce Chen (Education Specialist)

11th grade students were given SAT/ACT math practices to work on independently, followed by academic group discussions. Historically, students did not always participate in academic discussion when they selected their own groupings, and would often have off-topic discussions. The math teacher and I found a time to co-plan and we sorted students into groupings based on students’ academic ability, strengths, weaknesses, personality, and learning styles to yield productive math work and discussions.

Impact on Teaching

ACT/SAT practices are relevant to 11th grade students, and will hopefully increase the level of participation and academic discussion within the classroom. The math teacher and I kept the distribution of students varied throughout the class so students of all achievement levels could support each other equitably.

Typically, student groupings are typically done by the teacher, and/or some random seating. For this change package, we decided to try out co-planning and co-teaching. According to Friend, Hamby, and McAdams, co-teaching is  a widely implemented service that is “premised on each educator bringing different types of expertise to the classroom blending their skills to create a classroom that is instructionally appropriate for each student” (2014). The math teacher and I grouped students strategically, making sure not to track any high achieving/low-achieving students together.

Impact on Students

After implementation of these changes, student learning was positively impacted. Many students engaged in productive discussion after the SAT/ACT practices. Students’ level of productivity increased due to the level of relevance and strategic groupings. Historically when students had the option of choosing their own groups, there were more instances of side chatter and distraction. This time around, almost all students worked diligently when groupings were arranged prior. Students who struggled with math and have disabilities felt more supported since they were strategically paired with more supportive peers.

After surveying the students after the activity, I learned that students really valued relevance in the classroom, thus increasing their participation, effort, and concentration for this assignment. I also noticed that higher achieving students who did very well naturally took on a leadership role during discussions to explain their solutions and methodologies. Students who struggled also felt more supported and collaborated more. Lastly, 11th grade students take SAT/ACT prep very seriously.

This change package has made a positive impact on my teaching practice. As an education specialist, my role is supporting the general education teacher during classes, but also outside for collaborative planning. Prior to this activity, the 11th grade math teacher and I sat down together to put these groups together based on personalities, strengths, challenges, and learning styles. Though it took us more time, we felt that it paid off since the level of collaboration and productivity that came out of the academic discussions were worth the extra time it took to plan the groupings prior. I believe that an education specialist can play an effective role in planning out strategic groupings with the general education teacher.

These are the steps involved in this activity. For 11th grade, the math teacher wanted to dedicate a section to helping students prepare for ACT/SAT problems, while also having students engage in academic discussion.

One day was set aside for students to take a practice ACT math section. The next day, the students were put into groups for review discussion to go over corrections, errors, and other related questions. The following week, the same thing was done, this time for SAT math.

In order to replicate this change idea, collaborative planning between an education specialist and general education teacher needs to happen. Also, it is essential that the topic of the project and/or discussion needs to be relevant to the students, whether it can be applicable in a real life situation or college preparatory.

It is extremely helpful to do this later in the school year once a teacher and education specialist are much more familiar with the students. This activity can be done with any subject, but relevance to the students and co-planning between the teacher and education specialist are essential.

Sample work from 3 focus students: link to student work via Google drive

For this set of data, I selected three students and numbered their papers accordingly: 1 is academically stronger, 2 dislikes math and rarely participates, and 3 performs within the average range. Students 2 and 3 both have an IEP.

From the baseline sample work, students chose to work in groups they chose. For this exercise, students were asked to answer two SAT/ACT prep questions on linear equations with two variables. Students who already did well were not impacted, though students who were struggling were not able to receive peer support since many of them chose to stay with their friends.

The last two sets of work samples are from the ACT practice test and SAT practice test, with reflections and results from discussion. I felt that these pieces of evidence showed the effectiveness of effective groupings within the classroom, paired with co-planning alongside a general education teacher. Also, student data and feedback also show that they put more effort into the two practice tests because to them, it simulated real testing content which they took a little more seriously. The students did the ACT practice first, followed by the SAT. Looking at student data, work and notes have considerably improved.

Prior to this year, I have not done a lot of co-planning with general education teachers. Instead, I had just been supporting students and their groupings after they were set. This time around, the math teacher and I spent some time outside of class time discussing student progress, observing who would work well with each other, going over student learning styles, and finally, placing them into strategic and equitable groups. Not only did this affect me, but it also positively affected the general education teacher and the students.

This is an article detailing the positive effects of co-planning between an education specialist and general education teacher.