POGIL Conference – Portland, OR – July 27-29

As part of a KSTF Professional Development Grant, I was able to attend the Northwest Regional Conference for POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning). In an effort to meet my obligations for the grant, I will post the implementation plan approved as part of the grant and then comment on the outcomes for those specific action items. In this commentary, I will provide the learning from the conference and links to tools learned along the way.

June – July

Read for about 2 hours different published POGIL activities from math or science disciplines to see their successes, challenges and recommendations for improving POGIL in the classroom. Additionally, I will collect and review my previously created POGIL-like activities to compare my lessons with those created using the POGIL process. Conduct an internet search of leading questions (or directives) that could be used in the classroom environment to extract deeper responses from students (such as “can you tell me more about that?”) and make a list. Throughout the implementation of this plan, I will refine this list as I find what is and isn’t appropriate to foster learning.


July KSTF Meeting

Talk with other KSTF fellows about their practice of group activities, particularly science teacher who have lab classes. Since POGIL activities are similar to the group work and inquiry of a science lab, experienced science teacher may have tools for asking questions of students that lead to critical thinking in the inquiry activity. I am looking for questioning strategies when other teachers are working with groups.


July 27-29 (POGIL Conference)

Attend POGIL Workshop: Portland, OR. – I will begin on the Introductory Track for the workshop since I have no formal experience with POGIL. During the workshop, I will learn about the process and structure of the POGIL activity, list student learning outcomes from a POGIL activity and create plans for implementation of POGIL in my classroom. POGIL implementation includes facilitation tools for teachers that include questioning and keeping students engaged. I will use this learning for facilitation questioning to refine my bank of questions. Additionally, I will attend workshops about the Activity Structure of a POGIL (creating a framework for learning) and Writing Learning Objectives for the activities.


August – December

Create a clear classroom procedure for students to teach them how to positively engage in group, inquiry learning. I will Implement this procedure for my Algebra and Geometry classes in the fall when using group work. Additionally, I will create a POGIL lesson for my classroom and I will share out with other staff members to increase success in their classroom. In creating these activities, I would like to work with an instructional coach (provided by the school district) or a colleague to ensure effectiveness. Finally, I will continue to incorporate open ended questions (probing and clarifying questions otherwise known as socratic questioning) during my regular teacher to help extract deeper, more thoughtful responses to my students.



E1 – Professional Development Student Surveys

E1 – Exemplify professionally-informed, growth-centered practice. Teacher candidates develop reflective, collaborative, professional growth-centered practices through regularly evaluating the effects of their teaching through feedback and reflection. This means that teachers are making reflection a regular practice to improve instruction and student learning. In the Internship Seminar class we were asked to provide a student survey about our teaching practices. I already ask students to provide feedback at the end of each unit. student reflectionMy piece of evidence is another type of survey I incorporate into my regular teaching practices. After students take a unit test, I ask my students the following question to respond in their reflection journal: “In what ways can Mr. G improve the teaching of this unit?” This response was particularly representative of the whole classes responses and provided constructive feedback with positive behaviors to continue. When this student wrote this reflection, I saved it because their feedback was helpful to me, both positively and constructively.

This student’s reflection about my work as a developing teacher, demonstrates my growth in my teaching practices throughout the year. The student says, “He does great when he is showing all the steps to solving something. Her is also very good at keeping the class engaged.” Both of these have been points of emphasis as I begin my teaching career, particularly keeping students engaged in rigorous academic work. Research shows that keeping students engaged improved retention of material (Borich, 2014), I am excited that students recognize my efforts to keep them engaged in learning. I will continue to ask students these and similar questions to receive feedback that I can improve upon (such as improving group work protocols to optimize student learning when working in small groups).

This student work sample, along with my reflection to the assigned student survey, that aims at different teaching practices, help me target areas of success and areas of improvement. I can ask specific questions to measure my effectiveness as an educator. “In mathematics, several factors have been consistently found to exert a positive influence on student achievement gains: teacher coursework, degree attainment, and certification coupled with pedagogical training in how to teach mathematics (Hightower, et al., 2011, p.32 ).” Teachers play a crucial role in student achievement, the improvements I can make directly impact the student’s success.

In the past, since I have asked the same static question at the end of each unit, I would like to get more diverse feedback. As I work with the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation, I will be developing a long-term teacher inquiry questions for the first several years as a teacher. As this question develops and I work in collaborative work groups to help me establish steps towards meeting these professional goals, I would like to use the student surveys to ask my students questions as evidence towards those goals. The student feedback will help me assess if I am meeting my practitioner inquiry goals and can help me find next steps in any are needed.


Borich, G. D. (2014). Effective Teaching Methods (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Hightower, A. M., Delgado, R. C., Lloyd, S. C., Wittenstein, R., Sellers, K., & Swanson, C. B. (2011). Improving Student Learning By Supporting Quality Teaching.

H5 – Applications of Learning Beyond the Classroom

H5 – Honor student potential for roles in the greater society. Teacher candidates prepare students to be responsible citizens for an environmentally sustainable, globally interconnected, and diverse society. This means that the teacher helps students make connections between the mathematics taught in the classroom and the applications in the world around them. Students should be able to see the connection between the math and their surroundings, essentially answering the question “Why do I need to learn this?”

The evidence presented is a collection of activities which help students make connections between the mathematical concept and the world in  which they participate. Three units stand out as particularly relevant to my students. The first, was the use of polynomials, students were exposed to polynomials as they are used at Pixar animation and the United States Navy Office (USNO) to calculate the location of the moon and on a given day. The second application is for studying complex numbers. I provided students with access to a link which explains how trigonometry and complex numbers relate to spring systems in engineering. Finally, the most important is how exponential functions and the use of logarithms. On sample is to model how the human body decays drugs over time and another sample is how earthquakes are rated using the Richter Scale. For both, we discovered some shocking outcomes using mathematics. Making content relatable to students improves engagement and improved engagement increases learning opportunities.

Links to Evidence:

Each of these samples came from my own curiosity of how the content relates to the world around me. Generally, my students are interested in space, art, science, computers and engineering. In creating this content and hooking the students into participating in the activities for the real world application according to their interests, I have help students articulate the purpose for the content within their immediate future. For me, I learned about many applications of these tools too. For the Pixar Animation information, I contacted Tony DeRose, a Research Group Lead at Pixar Animation. I learned how to bring the world of mathematics into my classroom directly from the industry leaders themselves. With the creation of the Richter Scale Activity, I have become familiar with the common misunderstanding about how the Richter Scale actually works. Interestingly, a one point increase on the Richter Scale is NOT 10 times the previous energy, but rather about 27 times more energy. With Drug decay, students learned that theoretically, a drug will NEVER leave the body, its concentration just decreases.

Students benefit from the application because of their immediate use and interest in the topic. When students have some applications for the work they are doing in Mathematics, they become more interested in exploring more about the topic. I have become successful if I have interested one student to pursue a STEM career and they have used the tools learned through the application lessons in my class.

One area of weakness in helping students realize the potential for this topic is having them research the applications themselves. While I am truly interested in the matter, students will most benefit if they are able to do the research themselves and make the connections. One barrier is my fear that they will not be able to find inaccessible content because the mathematics is too advanced for their understanding. I could promote the learning by encouraging these students to do a project in which they find the application of these tools within the world and talk with an industry expert about the application of these tools themselves and ask questions to build understanding. This may pique their interest even more and teach them about the applications of learning beyond the classroom.

Professional Issues Reflection – E3

E3 – Exemplify an understanding of professional responsibilities and policies. Teacher candidates demonstrate knowledge of professional, legal, and ethical responsibilities and policies. Essentially, this means that teacher candidates are learning about the responsibilities for professional growth within the field and the ethics of improving as a professional. The Collaborative Learning Notes – Germanis taken about improving professional practices through Collaborating, Coaching and Consulting provide evidence to my learning in this HOPE standard. The assignment was to make notes about how professional teachers continue growing in their role as teachers and the importance of growth for job satisfaction. The notes start by addressing the professional issue of burnout and then turn to collaboration and relationships as the solution to this concern. Additionally, through connections with my internship, collaboration with other staff and professional growth are performance requirements for some teacher evaluation models.

Within this work sample, I am learning about the responsibility of seeking help, especially as new teachers become more confident in their role. Teachers should continue to collaborate with one another through professional learning communities, critical friends, coaching or professional circles. It would be irresponsible to continue learning about the current generation of students when attempting to teach. Since students needs are continuously evolving, teacher are responsible for meeting the new needs of students as a whole. Professional development within the school can help teachers (even veteran teachers) overcome some systematic obstacles.

Students are directly impacted by professional development through collaboration. From experience, some students claim that teacher X is better than teacher Y because teacher X does A, B and C. Within professional learning communities (PLC), teacher X could share with all of the other teachers their success in addressing a particular issue and the PLC could provide suggestions to create a homogeneous plan to address specific student concerns. During a classroom visit last spring, I had the privilege of participating in a PLC at a local high school. It was powerful to see the suggestion from coworkers for the teacher presenting his problem to receive suggestions to better support students.

From participating in the note taking activity, I learned about the various types of professional development that can happen at a school. In my internship, I am not experiencing good teacher collaboration…it’s not built into the culture of the school and only one or two teachers at the school teach the same subject. I also came to realize the important of staff relationships for new teacher to reduce burnout. Creating a strong working community could potentially reduce loneliness when many teachers can discuss similar work related issues and develop improvement plans.

While my school does not actively participate in joint teacher collaboration, within my internship, I am excited to work with my mentor teacher to address professional issues well. We have vibrant discussions about student working with IEP’s and my responsibility to adjust my teaching to meet those students’ needs. We talk about lesson planning and specifically how our goals will meet the needs of our students. One case of this has been in observing him teach a particular class, we have collaborated and he has told me that he is learning from these conversation, even after 30+ years of teaching. There is a lot of power in collaboration and professional learning teams. Throughout this year, I intent to be intentional about connecting with this teacher about our teaching philosophies to meet student’s needs. After this year, I hope to intentionally join a school where professional development is important within the school’s culture. This will be the topic of one questions I may ask in my interviews when applying for different schools.

Northwest Mathematics Conference (NWMC) 2014

The Northwest Mathematics Conference (NWMC) is a gathering of educational professionals who teach math or provide assistance to math instructors. The purpose if for attendees to gain valuable knowledge around how to teach and learn the latest and greatest instructional tools for math classrooms. All grades and topics were covered, some general educational techniques and others were specific to integrating Common Cores State Standards (CCSS) or other instructional tools into the classroom.


Day 1 – Friday

NWMC Day 1

The linked document are the notes I took on day one of the math conference. These only include a little bit about the sessions and workshops I personally attended, however I obtained many resources throughout the conference and this document include many many references to learning tools.

I will copy the session/workshop title and description and follow up with a few vital learning points.

Marc Garneau & Chris Hunter
(Education Services, Surrey School District — piman314g@gmail.com)

I See It: The Power of Visualization

IMG_0918What does it mean to “see” the math? We’ll explore tasks that can engage students to reason and make sense of mathematical concepts through visual representations. The nature of these tasks will include concrete patterning, dynamic
graphing, geometric representation, and more.

The session with Mark and Chris taught us about visualization of mathematical concepts, this followed the Dan Meyer’s model for presenting information and creating debate. One of the most interesting pieces of their workshop was the visualization of square roots. Investigating the fundamental ideas behind square roots would help students understand how to simplify square roots. Squares have the same length on each side and a square root is the length of one side of the square. Participants were provided with a packet of multiple activities that helped students visualize math concepts.


Amy Utecht
(Franklin Pierce High School — autecht@fpschools.org)

Algebra Interactive Notebooks

Come discover the world of Interactive Notebooks. I spent the last year researching and creating interactive notebooks to use with my algebra students. These notebooks include notes, foldables, examples, and journaling. I will share resources that I discovered and we will create several pages that were highly effective with my students.

Amy’s presentation of her Interactive Student Notebooks (ISN) was the highlight of today’s workshops. She provided examples of how she supplemented her school’s textbook with activities to engage students and provide an organization to class notes. Students participated in classroom activities and pasted Foldable’s, worksheets and investigations into her notebook. The students essentially create their own textbook by participating in class every day. The conversation in this workshop provided several ideas for how to manage classroom activities for students who miss class or choose not to participate in activities. Interactive notebooks replicate a scrapbook for algebra learning, although the tools could be applied to any subject area. We ended by creating about three Foldables to reinforce topics in a classroom. Amy says she uses the following blogs most frequently:

IMG_0122 IMG_0914 IMG_0121 IMG_0913 IMG_0915IMG_0119 IMG_0120

Debra Schneider & Alyssa Engle
(Evergreen Public Schools — 1500 SE Blairmont Ave Vancouver WA 98683)

A Free Common Core Aligned Algebra 1 Curriculum

A consortium of school districts in Southwest Washington have design a curriculum aligned to the Common Core content and practice standards. We have rich tasks, fluency practice, formative and summative assessment, and professional development modules.

Debra is a curriculum developer in Vancouver who received a grant to develop a curriculum around the common core for Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and Geometry. These are field tested activities and are FREE for any teacher to use. They obtained an open license to allow teachers to use the information for their classroom without additional credit. They have Algebra 1 published this year, next year they will publish Algebra 2 and later Geometry. This is a cool resource which focuses on BIG IDEAS for students and teachers.

This is a link to the free Algebra 1 curriculum and all related materials, there are a lot of very well developed activities on the site. http://swwmathematics.pbworks.com/


Dan Meyer
(Doctoral Candidate, Stanford University — dan@mrmeyer.com>)

Better Than Engagement

We try to engage students with math games, math rap, real world math problems, and promises of jobs later in life, but that engagement is often short-lived. The presenter will introduce Guershon’s Harel concept of “intellectual need” – a place where students need new math learning – and ground it with practical strategies.

Dan is an educational profession who is teaching teachers to remove the “Real World” from the classroom because it doesn’t work. He claims that students will better understand the idea if we turn the dial down in education and ask very fundamental questions on a basic level. This is a unique way of thinking and is highly inquiry based which leads students to valuable discussions. I took some notes on his lecture although he is famous in the math community for his TED talk which emphasizes a very similar message as his lecture at NWMC 2014. (http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_meyer_math_curriculum_makeover?language=en)


Day 2 – Saturday

NWMC Day 2

Again, the attached document if for day two of the conference and note I took during the conference. There are a lot of pictures in the document above. These sessions mostly had more visual elements to them. Again, I will comment on each session for important points and provide resources.


Nancy Wisker
(Dinah Zike Academy — nancy@dinah.com)

ScafFolding Interactive Math Journals via Notebook Foldables®

In this fast-paced session discover how to transform basic classroom materials and scafFOLD your math instruction using 3- D graphic organizers known as Notebook Foldables®. See the possibilities unFOLD and depart with a mini composition book filled with immediately usable ideas.

This course taught teachers several visual aid and organization strategies to build concepts for an interactive notebook. Foldable’s can be independent of a notebook page or can be pasted in. Some of the topics were elementary and were silly for high school students, but other tools could be easily adapted for any classroom or topic.


Katie Akesson
(Cavelero Mid High School — katie_akesson@lkstevens.wednet.edu)

Implement Standards Based Grading into your grading NOW – Including CCSS!

Have you heard about standards based grading and are now ready to do it? This workshop will provide easy, practical strategies to implement standards based grading into your grade-book starting now – even include CCSS.

Standards based grading is important for showing students where they are struggling and where they are excelling. Providing an area in the grade book is important to show parents which areas to work on. Additionally, this talk provided some ideas for classroom management. Katie teaching in a school district where students need to receive feedback on their homework, however the problem with collecting, grading and redistributing papers is a tedious effort on the part of the teacher. Students complete homework as requested and earn a daily score, homework complete (1 pt) or homework not complete (o pts.). At the end of a 1.5 week period, the class has a quiz on a characteristic homework problem. At this time, Katie collects homework packets from the past week and grades a the homework quiz and homework problems. The students may use homework notes on this quiz.

The primary focus of the talk was standards based grading. Katie shared her approach and grading scale for students for tests, quizzes and projects. Students can earn up to 55% by making an effort. Providing student points for effort encourages work, but does not deteriorate their grade to the point of no return. Students can revive themselves from a bombed test or misunderstanding. Incorrect thinking still results in a non passing score, but they still have a chance at learning the information and encourages continued effort.

Another take away from this talk was the style of grading for tests. Each test contains several standards, a grade is assigned to each standard and that is placed into the grade book. For one test, there may be up to four grades. For example, the grade book may read Chapter 4 Test: Solve Equations, Chapter 4 Test: transformation equations and so on. This allows students and parents to really focus in on problem areas.


Tom Reardon
(Fitch HIgh School / Youngstown State University — tom@tomeardon.com www.TomReardon.com)

The Great Applied Problem and Several Other Outstanding Individualized Assessment Activities

Creatively implement these exceptional activities into your classroom – Geometry through Calculus. Discover how to create individualized problems – unique to each student – and how to create individualized answer keys including all intermediate answers to easily assess these individualized problems.

This lecture was provided to help teachers provide challenging problems, primarily focused on the higher level math classes such as precalculus and calculus to create individualized problems. The secret, a spreadsheet with the answers. While Tom grades based on correctness of each step along the way, each problem should be displayed as an organized piece of work. Tom also talked about classroom strategies when presenting these challenging problems to his classes. He allows students to work together and carefully watches as students work to problem solve. He takes a hands off approach and lets the students figure out the problems.

He provided resources for us to use in our classroom through his dropbox.



Overall the math conference was excellent, I learned about many application tools which aligned with my university learning. I would highly recommend professionals to attend this event to learn about what other teachers are doing in their classrooms. After many sessions I walked away with great excitement about how I could implement this in my classroom, even adjust the procedures of the classroom for my internship to help students needs. I would have liked to see more research being contributed to some of the lectures (such as Dan Meyer’s Lecture) however I think many of the presenters at this conference were genuine in their interest to help students and improve other’s pedagogy for teaching math.

Big takeaways:
  1. Interactive Student Notebooks, similar to what we do in class, but modified to provide more structure. Essentially creating student created textbooks in a journal.
  2. Dan Meyer presented about introducing mathematical concept in an engaging way that doesn’t necessarily have application, but makes students think about an interesting question. This provided some resources for unmotivated students who don’t typically engage in classroom activities alone.
  3. Standards based grading, breaking down assessments and assignments into chunks of what we want students to understand and enter these into the grade book separately. This allows students and parents to clearly see which concepts the student is struggling to understand. So when Student A gets a 75% on a test, he may have gotten 100% on combining like terms questions, but 60% on factoring trinomials.
  4. Graphic organizers for less organized students or students who are more into art. One class structure is to teach organizational tools and study tools to students who need them.

Learners in Context Post-Course Meta-Reflection

[1] The Learners in Context course focused on two principals of HOPE, E1 — Exemplify professionally-informed, growth-centered practice and H1 — Honor student diversity and development. The standard E1 means that teachers are adopting best professional practices based on research and tested to maximize student learning. The H1 standard means that teachers are able to recognize that students are different and have very unique needs. Taking these differences into account, teachers are strategically thinking about their practices to improve student development.

[3] During the course I learned about the importance of exploration for students during their learning process. Medina (2008) talks about his learning growing up and his mother’s willingness to adapt to Medina’s changing needs as he explored his interests. Teachers must show willingness to adapt to students interests and work to encourage learning, not inhibit exploration through standardized testing. [2] Jamie Gephart is a student in our class and responded to a discussion post about incorporating exploration into learning while recognizing the requirement of testing, she writes

I had a teacher in high school that referred to his tests as a “celebration of knowledge”.  I know that may sound cheesy, but this subtle twist helped to relieve some of the pressure.  And in reality, shouldn’t this be the purpose of an exam?  Students have worked hard to understand and incorporate this new knowledge.  What if teachers presented exams more like game day, as an opportunity to show off all the hard work and practice they have endured? (Gephart, 2014)

[5] This matches the standard of H1 since it encourages student development through an effective way of allowing exploration and a creative way to test students without hindering natural curiosity. [4] From exploring and engaging in this discussion post, I learned that when students change their frame of reference from the testing frame to the game day frame their anxiety is drastically decreased and students can demonstrate their true knowledge. I have not needed to use these tools because I have been fortunate not to suffer from text anxiety, hover some students are not as fortunate. [6] In my classroom, I will try to frame tests as demonstrations of learning rather than a ritualized practice used to assign grades and create a classroom hierarchy.

Another point of learning from this course was Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) and the use of scaffolding to guide students’ learning (Pressley and McCormick, 2007). [1] This aligns with HOPE standard E1 since Vygotsky has conducted significant research on human development and learning. [2] These two pictures from Pressley and McCormick (2007) have been incredibly beneficial to my understanding of the ZPD and how good educators should teach students to maximize learning.

Module 5 did not facilitate much discussion about the ZPD as much as the book or classZone of Proximal Development lectures, however, the concept was impactful. [3] The ZPD is an essential tool for teachers to know where students are located in the curriculum, the process of scaffolding provides an essential tool for teachers to implement and practice providing work to students which is in their ZPD. [4] Prior to this reading, I did not know how to best implement challenging material, Vygotsky’s research has explained the precise level of challenge to present to students. I learned a lot about scaffolding and how to present challenging material and provide a guide to full understanding by providing many resources to students. [5] Students benefit the most when teachers practice these techniques. By scaffolding lessons of Scaffoldingchallenging materials, students receive adequate help and can feel successful in their work while also learning. [6] Practicing using ZPD and scaffolding in my classroom will not be challenging, in fact this will be an essential tool. I will use to explain complex materials, especially during my internship while working with exceptional students and provide support to students where the content falls beyond their ZPD. Finding the balance between too challenging and not challenging enough will take the most amount of practice.


Gephard, Jamie. (2014, July 9). Module 3 Discussion Forum A-G. BlackBoard Discussion Post. (Web).

Medina, J. (2008). Brain rules: 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home, and school. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.

Pressley, M., & McCormick, C.B. (2007). Child and adolescent development for educators. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.