This page describes in detail descriptions, activities, and learning targets for Geoff’s workshops.

Equalizing Practice and Assessment: Portfolio Workshop

How can we accurately and humanely assess student growth? We know that traditional tests decrease motivation for students and reinforce existing academic hierarchies, yet are the most common method of state and classroom assessment. In this workshop, Geoff will help schools, departments and individual teachers design their own assessment system, leaning on student portfolios filled with high quality performance tasks. 

Geoff is a leading expert in the field on student portfolios. As a researcher and as a school support coach he has written extensively about how student portfolios can effectively and humanely assess what students know and can do. Further, the artifacts produced by students yield much greater insight into what students know and can do. Not only will Geoff offer guidance and work-time to design portfolio systems, he’ll guide participants through a student work analysis protocol, mirroring staff-led professional development that teacher teams can use throughout the year to learn more about their students than they ever thought possible!

In this workshop, participants will experience the following:

  • Discussion of research based articles that provide a motivation for using student portfolios, along with the potential detrimental effects of tests.
  • A design sprint to identify and adapt high quality tasks that will yield significant student work.
  • A student work analysis protocol in which teachers will assess authentic samples of student work and discuss potential instructional decisions.

Participants will walk away with the following understandings and take-aways

  • A first draft of 5-7 sample performance tasks to be included in their portfolio system.
  • Sample student journaling prompts that accompany their work as to promote metacognition.
  • Exemplar protocols and a sample calendar for PLC student work analysis, centering portfolios and student work as the driving force behind staff-led professional development. 

Relevant links to Geoff’s writing/speaking on the topic of student portfolios:

Note: This workshop could be facilitated specifically with a math-focus or a school-wide focus.

Academic Safety & Addressing the Care Gap

Academic Safety entails students’ perception of mathematics as a discipline and of themselves as mathematicians. How do you students position themselves in regards to the field of mathematics? Do they view math as something they have access to? Or do they see it as a field closed off for them? This workshop will help teachers and schools learn more about their students’ sense of academic safety and offer opportunities to make mathematics a more welcoming discipline. Teachers will begin to unpack the concept of Academic Safety and the innumerable issues that touch on it. 

Geoff has written extensively about Academic Safety as the leading section of his book, Necessary Conditions and elsewhere. Concepts around Academic Safety intermingle with issues of equity and identity, which touch on every aspect of the math classroom. This workshop includes sensitive topics, such as race and gender stereotype threat and issues of mental health. 

In this workshop, participants will experience the following:

  • Defining Academic Safety and exploring its many surrounding concepts
  • Discussion of research articles on topics of race and gender in mathematics
  • Protocols that create a safe environment to discuss challenging topics
  • A model activity intended to prevent students from falling through “the care gap”
  • A call to action, requesting teachers to identify a strategy they will employ within a week (or the first week of school)

Participants will walk away with the following understandings and takeaways:

  • A method to assess their students’ sense of wellbeing in the math classroom
  • Strategies to improve students’ sense of belonging in math
  • An appreciation for the rich, diverse history of math that often doesn’t get discussed
  • An example of how to infuse concepts of Academic Safety from Day 1
  • Strategies to not only improve Academic Safety, but how to ensure that it improves throughout the year

Relevant links to Geoff’s writing and speaking on Academic Safety

Problem Based Learning Workshop

Workshop Description: Problem Based Learning (PrBL) is a pedagogical model of instruction in which students develop their own strategies toward solving a mathematical task. The teacher facilitates lessons by guiding students in their strategies and instructing after students have had a chance to attempt a task on their own. When students have an opportunity to explore a task before the teacher provides the scaffolding, they learn the material better and attain additional skills that go beyond the content. Skills such as persistent problem solving and communication are enhanced in a classroom that promotes collaborative problem based learning.

This workshop will help participants understand the “why” and “how” of PrBL. Through a model lesson and discussion, participants will obtain a better understanding of how to incorporate PrBL and other inquiry practices in their classroom. The workshop also includes examples and discussions of how to facilitate small breakout scaffolding sessions with students and how to meaningfully assess a PrBL task. Finally, participants will have at their disposal a cache of sample PrBL tasks that they will be able to implement soon after the workshop.

Geoff is a national leader in the advancement of Problem Based Learning. He guided a national non-profit instructional model consisting of over 160 schools toward PrBL. He designed training and on-going professional development to support teachers of all levels and experience toward a math classroom steeped in inquiry. He writes extensively about PrBL (and other topics) on his blog at, where you can also find many resources and conference session slides that further explore the topic. 

In this workshop participants will experience the following:

  • A discussion that speaks to the motivation for incorporating more problem solving tasks in a math classroom
  • A Problem based lesson from start to finish, including planning resources and assessment materials
  • An activity geared toward helping teachers identify what constitutes a high quality task.
  • Time to identify and plan their own PrBL lesson to implement in their classroom

Participants will walk away with the following understandings and takeaways:

  • What a problem based lesson looks like and how to make it a reality in their classroom
  • Places to find problem based lessons and how to design and adapt their own
  • Planning tools to ensure deep conceptual understanding from a lesson
  • Strategies for finding and adapting problems found in math curricula into problem based lessons. 
  • Exemplars and methods to assess student learning throughout and after a problem based lesson