For years, educators everywhere have held up the mantra proudly that “It’s all about the kids!” In Chapter 5, some of Moss and Brookhart’s insights hit me right in the face as I consider my own teaching and the instructional work I have led in my career because while we like to say its all about the kids, we often make it about the adults in our buildings. The opening line in the chapter, “Students are the most important DECISION MAKERS in the classroom,” got my attention right away. We often say that students are the most important part of the classroom, but the most important decision makers? Taken in that context, I am not sure our actions consistently model a student-centered approach to the formative assessment cycle. As educators, we have to admit that while we can force compliance for many things, students decide how engaged they are in their learning and how much in means to them. Now, our actions certainly can influence and motivate students…sometimes we can even manipulate them; but if we are developing assessment-capable students, as the author suggests, we must put them in position and expect them to monitor their own learning.
I have to admit, this chapter really solidified the need for teachers and students to work as partners in learning. The two-way conversation that is essential around a learning target, success criteria, and performance standards must have complete understanding from both sides. One of the pieces that I know I often miss when speaking with students on classroom visits, is having them share where they are in their learning/progress as compared to the success criteria. I like to ask what the learning objective, goal, target, etc. is but that is really fairly generic unless it means something to the student in terms of their own learning. I slight phrase change can make all the difference!!! Another piece of developing assessment-capable students that I believe we are right on the verge of connecting, is self-reflection. However, the authors point out some subtle differences that may help teachers and students move forward at a greater pace. In NISD student commentary has become a regular practice as students reflect on how their work meets a particular standard in an assignment (especially on SBBBs, but also journaling and other activities), but what we need to make sure they are doing is “translating their self-assessment into action plans for improvement” (p. 80).
“Self-Assesssing without making an action plan for improvement is like reading a recipe without actually preparing the dish: it’s nice to think about, but it doesn’t help get dinner on the table.” (p. 89)
This of course brings me to goal-setting. Numerous studies have shown that goal-setting is one of the leading factors influencing student achievement. The authors use John Hattie’s research to point out that students being able to know where they are in relation to a standard and use the information to set goals as the number one factor for improving student achievement.” (p. 80) What it doesn’t mention is the impact of short-term vs. long-term goals and the impact they can have. When starting anything new, don’t we all want to have some immediate success? Maybe it is with a new exercise plan, a diet, or some home improvement, but the feeling of seeing results immediately and still having a success criteria in mind is powerful. This is the beauty of Learning Targets!! They are meant for DAILY learning to build toward a long term learning objective. Students need to know for themselves how they did today and where they are headed tomorrow.
Rick DuFour and others have made four simple PLC questions famous:
· What do I want students to know?
· How am I going to teach it?
· How will I know if they have learned it?
· What will I do if the don’t? (or Do?)
These are essential questions for teachers to answer as they plan lessons, however the ownership is on the teacher, not the student. Moss and Brookhart add to these questions by posing two for students as well:
· What am I learning (the learning target)?
· How will I know when I have learned it (the success criteria)?
Students must be able to assess where they are in the learning process in order to set goals to move forward.
Chapter 5 gives lots of examples of ways teachers can help students monitor their own learning. I am curious, what are some strategies that are most successful for you?