Monday, October 18, 2010

Using the GAME plan with students

As much as I would like to, I do not anticipate directly addressing my students' use of technology with the GAME plan in the near future. Instead, I will be using the GAME plan as another tool to help students take charge of their own education.

This fall in partnership with a colleague, I have radically changed the way I present material in my geometry classes. Now, it is highly student-centered, and the responsibility per student is much higher than it has ever been previously. While this makes a good model once students buy into the idea, it is a massive shift for many, and it has not been a smooth transition for some.

Our student-centered approach relies heavily on personal reflection; each student writes a log of their performance on quizzes, making specific notes about what they did well and what needs improvement. Along with that second part, students are writing specific skills they need to improve and specific steps they will take to improve those skills. We then use a different personal reflection at the end of each chapter so that students can view their progress.

After several weeks in this model, some students are really seeing the benefits of diving into the material and have made great strides. However, other students fail to see any link between their actions and the outcomes and insist on placing blame anywhere they can find. For those students, it takes dedicated conversations around their actions and relative levels of success, and the GAME plan can be an active part of those discussions.

Using the GAME plan is a good way for students to get in touch with the realities of their situation since it closes the loop. Not only are there goals, but also specific actions to take toward those goals. So far, that part of the plan is not much different than the personal reflections that my students are already doing. However, the "monitor" and "evaluate" portions of the plan help to show students exactly what is going on and whether it is working.

As a facilitator of those discussions with students, the GAME plan allows me to place the focus on their actions, not on the person. All too often, students with difficulties in school already feel poorly about themselves, and many have all sorts of defense mechanisms already in place. Blame placing is one of those mechanisms that serves to remove the focus from the student. By relying on what the student writes in the GAME plan, the conversation can deal directly with the issues, without placing the student in a position of vulnerability, and without making the teacher an antagonist. Instead, the plan speaks largely for itself, and the student's actions either measure up or they do not. This is one way of making reality more concrete for students, allowing them to deal productively with uncomfortable truths.


  1. Andrew,

    A benefit of the GAME Plan is that it builds in monitoring and evaluation. Teachers have strategies in place to assess student progress to make sure that content is being mastered. The evaluation such as a rubric tells student exactly how their performance will be measured. It eliminates the "Oh, I did not know.." issues. Students are held accountable and educators can scaffold learning to meet their needs along the way. Great post!

    J Parker

  2. Andrew,

    I applaud your courage in radically changing the way in which you present content in your geometry class. Many teachers are so entrenched in their ways, that change can be a difficult and painful subject to even think about. They become so comfortable in their teaching, they may refuse to step outside of their comfort zone, even if it means students will be the benefactors.

    When students enter the workfoce, they will be required to learn on their own and tackle the work that is given to them, which is why I believe that you are doing a great thing by making your class more student-centered. Placing this responsibility on the individual student may not be a popular choice among your students, but in the long run, it is certainly a method they will appreciate you to the time to implement. Students need to take responsibility for their actions, as well as their education. There is only so much a teacher can do. A student must ultimatley make the decision as to whether or not that want to succeed in school and in life.

    Though you may be experiencing struggles now, stay the course and good things will continue to happen. Best of luck as you continue your endeavors.


  3. Jennifer & Jonas-

    I continue to be hopeful that these efforts will pay off in larger dividends as we continue through the year, but I am still struggling to change minds. School is necessarily much different than it was 20 years ago, and parents who still have that mental model are having trouble adjusting to the change.

    However, I have been applying a similar approach in my International Baccalaureate (IB) Math class and it is highly effective with almost all of the students and parents. This population tends to be more open to "new" ideas and sees the value in a range of experiences to prepare for the collegiate world and the career world beyond.

    Thanks for the words of encouragement and the suggestions for directions to go with this process!


  4. Andrew,

    I teach in a district where many of the students in my class have parents who attend our school. When speaking to these parents about what we are doing in class or what type of projects we have completed, I often hear comments such as "Well when I want hear..." or "We never did that when I was in 5th grade." and other similar comments. I think you are right in your assessment that parents maintain the position that school is exactly the same as it was 20 years ago. This may be true for some schools, but I know my district has changed and is continuing to adapt with the times. Getting parents on board with the idea of technology in education is an important thing to do.