Making Student Thinking Visible
A key aspect of student centered learning is understanding where students are in their evolving conceptual understanding. In order to accomplish this, teachers need strategies to make student thinking visible – including asking why? questions, using safe cold calling techniques, discussing student thinking with the class, using effective gesturing techniques, and having students reflect on and consolidate their learning.
Research has found that most American teachers tend to ask simple questions that seek quick answers. In contrast, Japanese teachers use “how” and “why” questions not simply to understand if students have the right answer, but to discern what students understand and what they don’t (Green, 2015). Here you will find questioning techniques teachers and students can use to surface/unpack student thinking and check status.
We want to hold students accountable for participating in class and sharing their ideas, but cold calling (i.e. calling on students to answer a question without warning) can cause anxiety. By giving students a warning, we can reduce anxiety and encourage students to use their thinking/group time wisely. Safe cold calling are strategies that give students a heads-up that you will be calling on someone (or several people) to share.
Consolidation techniques provide an opportunity for students to connect new learning to previous ideas, encouraging reflection and fostering an evolving (and deeper) understanding of big mathematical ideas. The act of synthesizing and sharing as a class also helps other students consolidate their own learning.