The first “Big Idea” of Calculus

I may have had a breakthrough finally in how to implement a modified standards-based assessment system (notice I did not use grading or reporting in that term, I still need to report with A, B, C, D, F) in my Calculus class.  Finally!  Trying to come up with the learning targets was more effort than I expected.  Reading Understanding by Design made it clear to me that I had to put much more thinking into the targets than just putting the book sections into a file.  Big Ideas and backwards design are key.

I think I really have things going in the right direction with this.  I’m putting students in charge of their learning and I’m documenting the targets out front.

A virtual thanks to Sam Shah for posting his experience with UBD that got me thinking in the right way about what a big idea is.  I haven’t done all the other parts of the backwards design yet formally, but getting the enduring understandings (“students will understand”) and learning targets in place was the first step.  Like all work, this is a draft; a draft I’m going to use for the first few weeks, anyway!

I can’t take full credit for the part of the document that allows the students to track their learning progress.   This was something I read recently on my google reader, but since I only just learned about Google reader, I can’t find the post again, so thank you!

Anyway, here’s the document I came up with to give to students and to schedule and teach by.  The first Big Idea is “Derivatives as Limits”, with 10 learning targets.  Some learning targets have sub-targets, but I’m only going to assess the target as a whole.  Here’s the whole document

I plan on handing this out to the students.  Also behind it is a document for students to track their learning of each of the targets.  Behind that is a schedule of when their target will be learned in class and some suggested example problems for practice.

I also included the dates of the skill assessments.  I decided that weekly skill assessments are best, and will occur on Wednesday or Thursday.  We have block classes, so whichever of those days they come to class each week will be their assessment.  I’ll assess each skill 3 times during class.  After that, if the student wants to improve, they’ll have to show me that they’ve practiced and come in on their own time.

That’s the plan, ready to act!

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