The ASSISTments Foundation is committed to providing high quality professional learning opportunities that support our teachers as they use ASSISTments and further develop them as instructional leaders both in their own classrooms and beyond.
To honor that commitment, we offer a variety of teacher-informed programming: Our Certified Educator program provides an on-demand flexible learning experience that helps any teacher become a super user. Our Teacher User Community on Facebook enables open dialogue between ASSISTments users; and our Professional Learning Communities, launching next year, will provide an ongoing space for learning and dialogue with a community of like-minded math educators from across the country.
In addition to the above offerings, we are especially excited about launching our first cohort of ASSISTments Ambassadors this past January. Ambassadors report that they have personally experienced the change ASSISTments has made for their students’ achievement, and are interested in expanding their impact beyond the classroom by supporting a broader community with using the tool. They also help the designers of the tool understand the needs of students, advocating for the development of features or content that could support student learning. Ambassadors truly have the ability to influence the future of the product they use every day in class.
Each Ambassador is empowered to craft their own plan, which can include speaking at conferences, engaging on social media, and leading supports in their local school community, with an eye to how they want to most develop as leaders. We know that teachers get their best advice from other teachers and are proud to have Ambassadors spread the word about the impact they’ve seen ASSISTments have in their classrooms.
One Ambassador doing just that is Andrew Burnett, a 7th grade math teacher in Newton, MA who has been using ASSISTments since 2008. Andrew is a fan of the tool’s ability to support teachers’ unique methods of instruction, referring to it as “a flexible platform ” where “the teacher is what makes it smart! ”
While Andrew started off with a more conventional grading system in his math classroom, he eventually made a big shift to a “Gradeless Classroom,” so that his students could “focus more on the content as opposed to grades” and embrace a growth mindset. ASSISTments has been a crucial tool for formative assessment in his class, because it provides students scores and immediate feedback, which can be used to check in on student progress, but doesn’t produce a grade. That is left up to the teacher (Andrew offers more details about this approach on his blog). He appreciates how he can use the tool flexibly for anything from assigning homework to reinforcing key math skills through practice, in support of his own grading approach
In addition, Andrew is passionate about using multimedia content as a way to engage and support his students. He has started a practice of filming support videos for students and embedding them into his assignments using the TeacherASSIST feature that will soon be available to all ASSISTments users. ASSISTments gives Andrew the flexibility to decide when the video will appear. He decided it should pop up after students attempt to answer the problem 3 times, to offer his students help only after they have engaged in some productive struggle. Andrew loves this opportunity to support his students while they complete their homework. And he knows his videos are working, because students “are able to explain how to solve problems and give the correct answer” during homework review, citing Andrew’s video explanations as their guide.
As an Ambassador, Andrew’s voice reaches a national community of math teachers about how ASSISTments can work for their students. He is active on his math ed blog, Twitter, in the ASSISTments Teacher User Community, and on YouTube, where he posts math tutorials to help his students complete their homework. Last year, Andrew published an op-ed in EdSurge about how taking a break from the classroom to work on research made him a better teacher. Offline, he’s a seasoned speaker, having presented widely including at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Association of Mathematics Teachers of New York State Conference. Our program amplifies these efforts by providing Ambassadors with a stipend to attend conferences.
We aim to develop programming that empowers teachers to have a greater impact both in their classroom and beyond, and the work of Ambassadors like Andrew is a great example of this. Why did he become an ASSISTments Ambassador? “I am a big believer in the work,” Andrew says. “I believe in ASSISTments because it is a research-backed tool and because I have seen it help my students.”
Thank you to all of our inaugural Ambassadors! If you would like to share your ideas with us and are interested in spreading the word, learn more about the Ambassador program and consider joining the Fall 2020 Ambassador cohort.