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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

School Of The Future

Grades 6-8 | New York City, NY

Keeping It Relevant and "Authentic"

Mistakes become learning opportunities in Ben Mook's seventh grade algebra class. He assesses his students by challenging them to solve real-life problems, emphasizing their thought processes over getting the right answers.

Keeping It Relevant and "Authentic" (Transcript)

Benjamin Mook: I would prefer you to not take the calculator outta the room, thinking, "I need to use my calculator," and then leave it on the stairs and then I cry, when I'm like, "Where's the calculator?"

Grace Minnell: Ben is my math teacher. He immediately made the impression on me that he was funny and that he was eager to teach kids and that he really liked his job. He wants you to really reach and get better at math.

Benjamin Mook: My name is Benjamin Mook. I'm a math teacher at School of the Future. I teach the seventh and eighth grade math cycle. If you think about to de-- What I'd say is an authentic assessment would be something that a teacher could design to hit the skills and the needs of their population. Some of these things that I'm assessing are not necessarily that kids can get to a right answer, but that kids, once they have that right answer, can understand, "I got to this right answer because I followed steps." I'll just pose questions and try to figure out what common mistakes are. And when I can get a whole mess of like ten or fifteen mistakes, that it doesn't even matter who made them. Like I could have a kid that's an A student that has like an error in logic on how to do a certain type of problem, and then I can use that and pose that as a question to students later. So I'll take a mistake that they'll make and then, one or two days later, I'll throw it back into the class. So what I want you to do is this: based on the information on this sheet-- there you go. One of my more favorite types of assessment is to actually give them incorrect work or incorrect answers and have them break down the error in thought process, of, "How could a student who's not as well educated as you--?" or start out like that. Like, "You would never make this mistake, but somebody did, and how would this mistake happen and how could you, as a classmate or a tutor, remediate this mistake?"

Today they were applying the slope formula to a set of stairs and seeing if they were in compliance with New York City building codes.

Okay, this is the math. This is how the math connects to the real life, and that was my goal.

Grace Minnell: I really like that we get to use our hands in class and that we really get to experience this in a real life situation, and that it's not just, "Here's the formula." It's like, "Here's why the formula works and, you know, here's something to prove it, or here's how you could think about it."

Benjamin Mook: Things that I'm doing now I've designed so that during a class period, the student is working and I am able to walk around and kind of coach them through what they are doing. And so I can look and anticipate the problems they're having, so in the classroom, I'm spending a lot less energy. Like I end the school day now not tired.

Stacy Goldstein: When we talk about authentic assessment, obviously things can only be as authentic within the four walls of a school. So we want the tasks that they do to challenge them to synthesize things and to approach problems in the way that a scientist does or historian does or a reader does or a writer does, and to make those tasks and those challenges as authentic as possible.

Benjamin Mook: And five minutes from now, we get back to each other.

Grace Minnell: I think not only Ben but the rest of the teachers at SOF and at the school, they really do want you to think about it and their main goal is not to get you to the right answer, but to show how you got there, and show that you really put effort into what you were thinking.

Benjamin Mook: The thing that I find most important is that I'm not assessing my kids to be able to give them an A, B, C or D. Like that's not gonna help my kids. I would say that the best use of assessment is to figure out where they're at and how I can get them to where I want them to be.

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This installment of Schools That Work was produced in collaboration with The Digital Learning Group.

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