Kyle Ferreira van Leer: Allowing Students to Assess Themselves
Kyle Ferreira van Leer of Starr King K-8 School wanted to teach from a young age. Coming from a line of teachers, education was something he grew up around and enjoyed. Kyle got his first taste of teaching as a teaching assistant in a calculus class in high school. He immediately loved it and realized that this was the trajectory for him.
When Kyle Ferreira van Leer is in the classroom, he’s constantly reflecting on his performance. “I don’t think I have ever taught a year the exact same [way] as the previous year,” said Kyle. He’s constantly seeking out professional development opportunities where he can learn from those around him. “From my first year of teaching to now, I’ve made significant changes,” he said. “I’m much happier where I am now – where I am now is much more like where I envisioned myself.”
As of late, Kyle has put his focus on breaking apart his linear methods of instruction. “I don’t have a linear teaching style,” he said. “I teach through cycling. I teach through a spiraling curriculum.” Instead of going straight through a textbook, Kyle attempts to revisit concepts multiple times throughout the year so that his students see how all the concepts they learn in a year can work together. “Kids are able to then see more connections between the content – they have multiple opportunities to engage with something,” said Kyle.
Beyond his instructional methods, Kyle has also revamped his overall assessment system. In his new system, students have a more hands-on approach to their own learning. “Students, every week, have 1-3 new learning targets that we've worked on,” explained Kyle. His students reference their best work from the week and explain how that work relates to the learning goals set in place. Once this is turned in, Kyle goes through and offers feedback on each of his students’ reflections. The benefits of this go beyond just math, in Kyle’s estimation. “I also love how this provides opportunities for English learners to practice their writing in the math space, which is not often done,” he said.
In Kyle’s words, this revamped method of instruction has become something “very important and integral” to his classroom. This unique way of having students reflect on and engage with their work, while challenging to integrate at first, has created an opportunity for them to gain a deeper understanding of their own educational journey.
Photos courtesy of Kyle Ferreira van Leer