One effective self-regulated learning strategy is interweaving course content or interleaving. Interleaving is the practice of switching between ideas while studying as this strengthen  understanding on topics previously learned while creating links and connections between topics. I have been using, demonstrating, and teaching this concept in my math classes. As I am not with my students when they are studying I am demonstrating the usefulness of interleaving in three ways:

  1. As homework suggestions
  2. During regularly scheduled class activities
  3. During instruction time

Homework Suggestions:

The easiest change to make were homework suggestions. While students had standing instructions to practice the topics explored that day, I made a point of recommending other previous topics to look at. Thus my new instructions each day were, for example: “Try practicing what we learned today, factoring using the difference of squares, but also try 1 questions of graphing and 1 simplifying an algebraic radical”

Class Activities:

Changing class activities & assignments took more time to prepare. Each new group activity/assignment now included one or two questions on a previously learned topic. While it was nice when the previous material had a strong link to the new material, I wasn’t very worried about always finding a strong link as mixing up old and new allows students to find their own links.

As one student noted, testing has material all mixed up, so why not activities?

Instructional Time:

During instruction I made an effort to remind students of previous material and how that related to the new material. Math can be ‘silo-ed’ if not careful. I also made a point of choosing questions from other units to solve, mixing up the new with the old which keeps everything fresh in the minds of my students.

My math class looked like: teach, student practice, teach, student practice, teach, student practice, teach, student practice, teach, student practice, teach, student practice, teach, student practice, review, test. Also, I had taught similar concepts as unique, separate entities. For example, there are 4 different chapters of binomial factoring. I taught one, after another, over 2 or 3 days.

I changed my thinking in how I approached math class to incorporate ‘clumping’ of similar strategies (Nilson, 2013). Now, for example, all four chapters in binomial factoring were taught in 1 day. Students could now see similarities and differences in similar material. This left SPACE in my teaching schedule. I decided to incorporate activates on those days. Activities would be done in groups of 2 – 4 and help students master aspects of the course.

Within the activities, I would embed Self-Regulation learning strategies. Initially the strategies were implicit, as the term progresses I changed my thinking and made the strategies explicit. For example I said “A great learning strategy is called Dual Coding. Dual Coding means combining words and visuals. Essentially you look at visuals and explain them in words or take information and draw a visual.” Then I got the students to use that strategy in the activity. My goal was to have students understand why I was doing something.

I believe that test corrections are very important in math. Thus, once I have returned a math test, I ask students to make corrections to their test and hand it back in for marks. To expand and enhance test corrections, I created a ‘test wrapper’. Students would answer a few simple questions before the test, a few simple questions after they completed the test corrections and I would be able to have a conversation with them about how they approach studying math, their motivation for being in the course, and their confidence level with the material. I saw it as a simple way to have a conversation about their learning in a math course.

One unexpected benefit with the test wrappers was the 2 or 3 simple questions at the beginning of the test really grounded the students. It gave everyone a simple starting place, essentially the first couple of steps on the test journey. I forgot the wrapper (once) on a test and students immediately asked where it was – I had to promise to put it there for the test corrections (and for the next test)

Overall I am pleased with the changes to my course