Collecting evidence of learning, keeping track of learning and sharing learning all contribute to the motivation of the student. The student has the power of success and control of their own learning and this breeds more success.
Knowing deeply about your own learning anchors the learning in the student’s long-term memory; the new learning is connected to established schema in the student’s brain and becomes a part of the student’s memory and stored knowledge.
This past term we have been using the iPad2 in the classroom to collect evidence of learning. What started off as a project for me to collect evidence very quickly became a student centred project where students collected evidence of their learning, reflected on their learning, set their own learning goals and shared what their improvements with peers, family and the teacher.
Confidence, motivation and engagement are all high.
Self-knowledge is developing, awareness of effort is developing, appreciation of differences – of strengths and areas for improvement are developing, and an objective and informed eye for what constitutes successful achievement of particular learning areas is developing as well.
Below, Michelle records herself reading out loud in order to improve her fluency scores.
She keeps track of what she can do and what she needs to get better at.
Her reflection shows that she is using the language of the rubric in her thinking.
Her test score sheet to keep tabs on her improvement.
Focussed revision = practice with feedback.
Focussed instruction (strategy 5) followed by focussed practice has allowed my class and myself to keep the learning “front and centre” in our classroom.
We are all literally speaking the same language, and working together to improve on shared targets – so students know what the purpose of activities are, they know why they are playing a game, they know that they are revising something they need to improve on. We are all in this together!
We can use transition times to practise or reinforce targets with students who need this, I can add activities or problems or practice exercises to homework or contract work to reinforce targets. Opportunities for reinforcement of targets appear throughout the day – all help to move learning along.
Using the individual whiteboards in writing practice sessions whilst focussing on WOW words or connecting sentences; using whole class targets to play games like “Round the World” to reinforce learning; contract work exercises to focus students on learning targets.
This strategy gives the power to the teacher to effectively focus their lessons, to know the purpose of a task, to know how far it was achieved and helps in identifying how to move students forward.
Rather than aiming for a non-existent middle of the group and hoping that someone learns something relevant, lessons are designed to focus on specific learning needs of students. When everyone is clear on what is required, then misconceptions can be cleared up and learning can move forward.
Using WALT & WILF regularly in a variety of subject areas has helped me be really clear about the purpose of my lessons and focussing on specific learning or quality targets actually allows me more time to cover a range of targets or qualities. I know when a target has been met or if I have to re-teach or re-focus in another lesson, I know who has achieved the target and who needs more exposure to a target.
To put the students at the centre of their learning the skills of self-assessment are of great importance. Students must have ownership of the responsibility to learn.
“If students do the learning then the grades will follow”
When students see where they are at in their learning and know what they have to do next to progress, they have a self-diagnosed learning plan that they are in control of. They know explicitly what they have to do.
Using checklists, tables, sentence stems and rubrics all help students to self-assess and set goals for their learning. Goal setting is very important for students to undertake and guidance or scaffolding is needed to ensure that goals are
- • Focussed
- • Mobilise effort
- • Increase persistence
Goals need to show
- • a clear description of the intended learning
- • what students can do now
- • an action plan
- • time frame
- • evidence of new learning
Now students have the means to effectively work on learning targets to demonstrate learning they have the power of control over their own learning.
Feedback during learning gives students important information in regard to where students are now in relation to where they want to be and to prompt further learning.
Feedback given in response to particular learning targets is very focussed, specific and immediate. Students understand the language being used as it is directly referring to the target, student successes are mentioned specifically and intervention feedback is also given that guides further improvement.
Feedback can happen very quickly during the learning, as the target to be achieved is visible to student and teacher, allowing successes to be identified quickly and areas to work on negotiated with students.
When using rubrics it was especially quick to find what students were doing well, and what they needed to do to progress to the next level.
In writing, students had individual targets (based on Levels of writing competence) and when marking and conferencing on their work, feedback on their targets provided an informative and structured protocol that enabled students to see and hear about their successes and where they needed to work on next.
Writing levels, writing targets, writing feedback:
Setting out your learning targets goes some way in making learning intentions clear to both students and teachers, but using examples of strong and weak work clarifies this even more.
Providing actual work samples for students to discuss and analyse further adds to the picture of the expected learning that we are developing with our students.
The learning intention is the start of the process, but using work samples enhances the conversations around what constitutes strong and weak examples of the expected learning. This information informs students and helps them to identify aspects of the work that are strong, aspects that are weak, and aspects that are missing. It is making the expectations explicit, giving the student more information that they are able to use in their demonstration of the learning intention.
My reading group needed to develop fluency in their oral reading so we talked about what fluency was – what you had to do if you were reading fluently. We came up with some areas that we thought were important:
We googled “fluency rubrics” to see what experts believed were important aspects of fluency and found that we had come up with many of the aspects ourselves. Next we decided on the wording of the rubric ourselves – and put together descriptions of each element.
We listened to examples of students reading and together we discussed what elements the reading showed and where the reading would fit on the rubric we had made. We repeated this over a number of days so that students could develop a clear vision of what fluency looked like, sounded like and was made up of.
Classroom Learning Targets:
Learning targets look quite different within the classroom – they are more focussed, smaller, and may or may not change more often. In some areas there will be different targets for specific groups, same target across the class, or individual targets for each student.
Learning targets in the classroom may be phrased “I can ….” or “We are ……”, or can be more formalised language such as “Students will ….” depending on the ages of the students.
In my room I have been using two characters called WALT & WILF, acronyms for the learning target and the success criteria for a particular session.
WALT = We Are Learning To ….. or We Are Learning Today ……
WILF = What I’m Looking For ……”
Here are some examples from my classroom:
Setting targets with students has impacted on the learning in my classroom by enabling students to start the lesson with a clear idea of what they will be learning and where they are heading. I am much clearer in what I want to achieve, as are the students – we are all focussed and attuned to the expectations of the lesson.
Curriculum Specific Learning Targets:
Targets are used to inform the students and the teacher about the learning intentions within the classroom. Often curriculum outcomes or indicators are complicated and jargonistic in nature and in order to provide meaningful targets for learners to meet, curriculum targets often have to be unpacked and reworded so that they become meaningful to both students and teachers.
Developing a shared understanding of the outcomes of a particular area of study amongst a stage team of teachers is important even before sharing with students. Teams need to unpack and have conversations around the outcomes and indicators especially where common assessments are given across the stage/grade at the end of the unit/topic/year.
Conversations with students around curriculum outcomes are vital to inform and “frontload” students with the designated expectations of the curriculum. Using student friendly and student negotiated language enables students to understand and begin to engage with the curriculum and their own learning.
I first heard about Assessment for Learning through this book: “Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning” by Jan Chappuis. As I read it last summer, I was impressed with how “real” the strategies and ideas were, how do-able and sensible they were. Quite simply it is all quality teaching!
The seven strategies described in the title are a compilation and synthesis of current thinking in the assessment area. They have been used, shaped and refined in classrooms with real teachers and real students.
Real students – at the centre of the assessment cycle. In control, being informed, reflective, and a powerful voice in their own learning. This is the power behind assessment for learning – the active presence of the student: it is their learning, their skills and ultimately their effort and participation in their assessment of their learning in order to improve their learning.
It sounds interesting, enlightening and POWERFUL. I’m ready to give it a try……so here I go. On an A4L adventure!
As I set out on my assessment for learning journey I was very much aware that I would need to change a lot of what I did in the classroom – not just in relation to assessment, but in
- how I talked about what I was doing,
- how I approached the assessment tasks,
- what I did with the tasks and info after it was marked and collated
- how I would make the learning intentions of my lessons very clear to students, and
- how I would share success criteria with students
I hadn’t really considered just how much my students would be expected to change as well.
- Students would need to know where they were in specific learning areas
- Students would need to know what exactly they needed to achieve in relation to stage outcomes and indicators
- Students would need to know what they had to do to grow their learning to achieve their targets
- Students would need to know how to set individual targets and how to collect evidence of their learning towards those targets
- Students would need to be able to negotiate and use rubrics to describe their learning
- Students would need to know and understand success criteria
It soon became obvious that this would need to be a team effort that both students and teacher would be working together to demonstrate achievement. That assessment couldn’t be done to the students, but would be worked on with the students.
Image: ‘3D Full Spectrum Unity Holding Hands Concept‘