Student Voice and Feedback in Math Fellow Selection
By: Tim Johnson, Director of Denver Math Fellows
Denver Math Fellows is still hiring for the 2015-2016 school year! Math fellows work full time for the entire school year with groups of no more that 4 students per period. Math fellows come from a wide range of majors and experiences and include recent college graduates, career changers and retirees.
Shout out to Austyn, Kaniya, NyEra, Nashara and NajaRay for their work in helping to screen math fellow candidates in Denver this summer! To find out how we incorporate student voice and feedback into the screening process, read on…
Starting with our first math fellow selection event in Houston, Texas in 2010 we have involved students in the selection process. We do this for a couple reasons:
- Kids are great
- They are also great at identifying which adults can build relationships with them and motivate them to succeed
In the past, this is what we’ve done: Candidate gets 10 minutes to prep provided material and then they work 1:1 with a student while being observed. After about 10 minutes with the student, the candidate leaves and the observer asks for feedback from the student on their experience. Bottom line: would you want to spend an hour a day with this person for a whole year? This feedback is critical and we continue to use it in the selection process to this day. In making improvements to the screening process this year, we added a wrinkle to provide candidates with an opportunity to implement feedback.
Generally, candidates do most of the participation during the time they are working with a student as part of the selection process. This is also a challenge for us throughout the school year in terms of participation ratio and thinking ratio (for more here, check out “Ratio” in Teach Like a Champion 2.0). In order to begin to shift the participation from the adult to the kid, we added this wrinkle: after 5 minutes of working with the student, the candidate gets feedback from a math fellow coordinator.
The feedback is precise, straightforward, and can be implemented immediately.
Here are some examples of feedback provided at our last selection event:
- Have the student read the problem aloud, underlining and circling key terms, instead of reading it yourself
- Ask open ended questions instead of questions that elicit a yes or no response
- Have the student do the writing
Then, candidates either implement the feedback or they don’t. This initial data point on the coachability of candidates is gold for us.
Also, sets up a number of things for those who become math fellows.
- Primes new fellows for feedback rich environment
- Starts to build fellow awareness around participation ratio
- Sets foundation for next level: ensuring that kids are doing the heavy lifting (thinking ratio/increasing rigor)
- Most important: kids are at the center of the process
Big picture: involving kids in the selection of math fellows and building in opportunities to measure candidate ability to respond to feedback are key.
If you or anyone you know is interested in the Denver Math Fellows program, apply today and/or forward widely!