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Accountable Actions

Whiteboards, Chromebooks, and Academic Discussions...Oh my! Accountability. However you decide to spin it, we need to make our students accountable for their learning.

I really enjoyed spending time in the Science Department this week and observing how they make their students accountable for the content covered in their classes. While we can assess our students on unit tests and quizzes, student accountability can and should be measured throughout the entire class period. It was such an awesome learning experience to observe how different teachers and science discipline teams make students accountable. Their instructional techniques for student accountability can be adapted for any class or subject area.

As I walked past Biology and Physics classrooms, I noticed a pattern: As students completed labs, they were writing, drawing, calculating, and/or graphing on a whiteboard. I learned from Ms. Katie Matt that in Biology, they want their students to demonstrate their understanding pictorially, graphically, and verbally. With this, the students are asked various questions throughout activities that they have to answer/complete on their whiteboards. According to Mr. Mendoza, one of our Physics teachers, instead of just sitting and getting info as teachers lecture, whiteboarding helps the students understand and then explain their understanding. Students are actively involved in labs and have different expectations, depending on the class and lab, for what they need to report out. It also helps teachers assess student understanding in the moment as they are able to view student work immediately and redirect the lesson as needed. The Physics team adopted this Modeling Method in order to engage students, promote collaboration, and produce accountable learners. The verbal component comes in throughout the process as students are asked to report out to the class. This student-centered approach is a consistent part of these classes, and it was refreshing to see students take such ownership of their learning and understanding.

Don't have whiteboards? No problem. You can do something similar using Google Slides. In Ms. Burns' AP Biology class, she asks her students to complete a slide in a shared Google Slide Deck. All students have editing access to this slide deck and at times, a template already in place for them to exhibit their understanding. After completing the lab, she projects the slide deck and asks for groups to share their work and analysis with the class. According to Ms. Burns, this is a wonderful student artifact and promotes inquiry in the classroom. Students have choice when it comes to what they are concluding on their slides and must articulate this for their peers. Accountability at its finest!

While a Chromebook is not the key to academic success, it can help provide a path for learning and student accountability. Science teachers used Chromebooks as a resource when they asked students to be accountable for their understanding of the content. In Mr. Haber's Earth and Space Science class, he asked his students to research a constellation and create a video presentation to demonstrate their learning. Students were given the choice to use WeVideo, Screencastify, or any other video creator app on their Chromebooks. Mr. Haber explained that he was really impressed with the creativity of his students during the process, adding that one group hoped to write and rap their presentation. In Mr. Wick's AP Environmental Science class, students completed a HyperDoc about population and were given numerous tasks to complete as they learned more about this part of the curriculum. Students were accountable for their learning by the various activities implemented in the HyperDoc, in addition to the collaborative elements incorporated throughout the activity, including a Give one Get one activity that promoted communication and demonstration of understanding. In Ms. Kolbaba's Chemistry class, students created infographics using Google Drawings or a program of their choice to showcase their understanding of nuclear reactions. From there, classmates were able to do an infographic walk and learn from their classmates. Students were accountable, and their audience moved beyond the teacher and to their peers, raising the stakes for their work and creations. Ms. Kolbaba explained that an activity like this provides opportunities for student ownership and increases curiosity in her classroom.

Academic Discussions 
When we can get our students talking with one another, it can be quite powerful in the classroom. Academic discussions promote accountability, as students have to make arguments, provide evidence, and most importantly, actively listen to their classmates and respond. When I walked into Mr. Figi's APES class, his students were debating species types and interactions. I was extremely impressed with the students' ability to stand, speak, and explain their sides of the argument. I believe that in order to demonstrate a true understanding of a topic, one must be able to speak about it and educate others. This debate activity provides a perfect opportunity for students to take ownership and also learn from one another. I visited other classes, including Ms. Sarcu's, Ms. Kinell's, and Ms. Prawlocki's, and witnessed great academic conversations while students completed labs. Students had to talk to one another in order to complete the different aspects of the lab and then work together to answer questions or complete their whiteboard activity. Similar to all the classes I mention, student accountability increased as they were asked to communicate and collaborate while hypothesizing, evaluating, and drawing conclusions.

There are numerous ways to make our students accountable in the classroom...we just have to be consistent and empower our students to complete and share their work! #whatsup