What is EnCoMPASS?

What is EnCoMPASS?  How does that help your teaching?  What do you get out of it?  Encompass fellows

Since I became an EnCoMPASS fellow two years ago I’ve probably been asked those questions about 100 times.  I always struggle some with the answer.  Its hard to put into words exactly what EnCoMPASS is – at least to me.  But, here goes….

Formally, EnCoMPASS stands for Emerging Communities for Mathematical Practices and Assessment and its a grant project started by the Math Forum at Drexel University.  That’s defined a bit more on the EnCoMPASS site – “The EnCoMPASS Project is developing an online professional teaching community of mathematics educators focused on understanding and improving mathematical thinking through work with formative assessment rubrics and feedback to student problem solving.”   But, after the one week institute in Philly and two whirlwind weeks home starting school, I’m still thinking about the fact that it means so much more to me.  

So, here is what EnCoMPASS means to me…

  • Thinking – lots of it

We analyze, talk about, tear apart, and talk some more about student work.  “So what”, you say.  Well, its a huge “so what.”  As teacher, I hope we’ve all analyzed our students worked.  We’ve probably thought about what made the student do what they did and we’ve then assigned a grade or taken off the points we thought they deserved for whatever error they made.  We’ve probably even adjusted our instruction based on that analysis.  But, in many cases, we haven’t had the time or resources to sit down with our peers and analyze it from start to finish.  To discuss the problem before giviCandyng it to a student, to think about what possible strategies the student might take and then to look at the work once its done to really try to get into the head of the student and analyze their thinking.  EnCoMPASS means that…

  • Feedback

It means giving feedback to students rather than just a grade.  Giving valuable feedback that makes the student explore another option, revisit their solution, think about their own thinking or just express themselves more clearly.  That’s definitely not as easy to do as it is to write here. It stretches your teacher brain too!

  • Providing resources for other teachers

GHangoutThe EnCoMPASS project is working on a platform where teachers will be able to share work with other teachers to allow that analysis to build.  Other teachers will be able to look at, analyze and see others analysis of student work on problems that they either plan to use or have used with their students.  A true online PLC (professional learning community.)  A way to provide teachers with that resource in a way that they can access it at a time that’s flexible for them.  And the coolest part, that platform is being developed by teachers for teachers!

  • Inspiration

One of my assistant principals called this my “geekcation.”  And it reallyFawn was.  This group of teachers is one of the most dedicated, talented and passionate I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.  I am truly honored and
humbled to be included among them.  The stream of cool ideas, thoughts and suggestions that come out of this team daily is almost overwhelming.  They are risk takers who aren’t afraid to fail and try again and they encourage that in their students.  They ARE the teachers that we all want our kids to have.  They provide inspiration to their students, their colleagues and their students daily.  Just fills the heart to be around them.

  • Family

I know that sounds weird.  But this group really has become a family. We talk to each other via Facebook, Twitter, EnCoMPASS discussion forum, Google hangouts, text etc…. all year long.  We know about each others kids, happenings in our lives and the day to day stuff that all families talk about.  I love this group!

familySo there it is… not an elevator speech for sure.  But that is what EnCoMPASS brings to my mind every time I’m asked that question…”What is EnCoMPASS?”

EnCoMPASS family – I miss you all so much… feels like its been a year when its only been two weeks!  Google Hangout soon?

 (Credit to Vivian Klotz for almost all of the awesome photos!  Aren’t they great?! )  


(Credit to Lisa Henry for this wonderful “selfie.”  Frisbee photo bomb by Andrew Stadel and Michael Pershan)

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