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Inquiry Symphony, Take Two

Knowing the Steps

 
We altered the original mindset questionnaire to accommodate our students. We knew our students well and could word the question to facilitate clarity and give them an entry point. Students were allowed to sit with either teacher and complete the questionnaire either independently or with the help of the teacher.
 
 
Students gave detailed responses which allowed us to see how students value the advice of the adults in their lives. You can read the powerful and insightful students’ responses below:
 
 
After issuing the questionnaire, we decided to modify the geometry assessment to help eliminate the fears they were having and thus increase their performance. Based on their feedback, we omitted or limited essay-type questions and gave more multiple choice questions.
 
We also started to have discussions with students on NYC college entry requirements; these dialogues helped our students realize they could gain college readiness requirements and matriculate to college. We discussed majors, placement exams, and requirements. More than just hosting discussions, we assigned a college research project as a final exam. They presented in detail a major and school of choice in a written report, display board, and oral presentation. Academic and financial requirements were also included. They had scheduled times to present their project. This project was a student-centered form of assessment and allowed them to translate our discussion into a product. My students enjoyed the project and requested that they get a chance to present their work to the class. It was incorporated as a part of the final project’s grade. See the rubric for the project below:
 
A sample page to the College Project Rubric.
Below, you can view two student sample projects from my juniors. Could this simple task, aimed at changing their mindset, shift their future? 
 
 
 
Next, we emphasized the importance of the SAT to increase their matriculation opportunities. We watched Youtube videos on SAT tricks to expose them to test-taking skills. I did research on the SATs (as an immigrant teacher, it was not a part of my own education) and provided two periods (45 minutes) of instruction on content that our students would not have gained.
 
 
As geometry students, they would have content knowledge of Algebra I and geometry concepts; however, there were Algebra II and trigonometric concepts about which students were unfamiliar. We tailored lessons to address this concern and provided our own video support via Edmodo. Students were given a period per week to come with SAT questions they had difficulty with or about which they could share a solution method. 
 
 
As teachers, we decided to embrace mindset theory and shift our vocabulary to praise effort rather than success and to avoid highlighting any signs of failure.

What Worked and Did Not Work: Mastering the Choreography

 
Through tailoring the mindset questionnaire, we were able to get more reliable responses from our students about their mindsets. Most of the students had a fixed mindset and felt their academic future was not going to change. There were a few students whose scores reflected a growth mindset; these students were driven, but would occasionally be swallowed by the negative atmosphere. 
 
 
The biggest success from this process was the college project.  Students welcomed a non-traditional final and most had their final product completed before the due date. They were meticulous with their information and it reflected a personal choice about their futures which they had to share with their peers. The presentations were designed to be informal and create a non-threatening atmosphere for our shy students. One student was candid and shared with us that after doing the project, he recognized that getting a college degree was not the only route towards success. Despite our best efforts, our SAT test prep support program was not successful. Students still struggled with retaining the content and understanding the question in order to provide a correct response. The short period of time we had to provide support was not enough to make significant improvements in their June SAT exams.