Rethinking our Assessment and Reporting Practices
If our goal is to cultivate the inner capacity of our students such that they become increasingly independent and knowledgeable owners of their learning, then it is of critical importance that they understand:
- WHAT am I here to learn?
- WHY is this important?
- HOW can I successfully apply myself?
To authenticate the importance of any trait introduced, the next immediate step taken is to gather positive evidence of this trait and to provide descriptive feedback to students. In this way, we again ensure coherency-within-practice by making crystal clear connections between what we communicate to our students is important and the evidence of learning that we gather.
By using curriculum learning outcomes, Assessment for Learning Strategies and Successful Learner Traits we offer clarity to our students about the ‘What’, ‘Why’, and ‘How’ of learning.
Many teachers now include ‘Assessment for Learning’ strategies within their teaching practices. This dramatically changes how students are engaged and involved with their own learning. Dylan William, an internationally recognized leader in the development of effective, research-based formative assessment, asserts that achievement gains associated with formative assessment are “among the largest ever reported for educational interventions”.
While Assessment for Learning strategies typically focus on ‘the what of learning’ or learning outcomes, we powerfully use the same strategies for ‘the how of learning’ in order to encourage students to think about and apply those specific Successful Learner Traits that will best contribute to their success in the context of a given learning experience.
The primary focus of Workshop II – Going Deeper with Successful Learner Traits ~ Supporting Authentic Student Self-Reflection, is supporting teachers in the use of formative assessment strategies as they apply to competency-based education.
Reporting – Communicating Student Learning
Curriculum revisions and the inclusion of competency based education has resulted in significant changes to reporting policies in many jurisdictions. Many teachers welcome these revisions because they support a better alignment between current classroom practice and how student progress is communicated to parents.
Current models of reporting now include communication to parents that is: evidence-based, continuous, appreciative, and that clearly places the student in the centre of the process.
As such, students are actively involved in the reporting process. By including students’ reflections of their own learning, their strengths and next steps, teachers are able to cultivate ownership of learning. For classrooms that embrace Successful Learner Traits, this includes both the ‘what of learning’ as well as the ‘how of learning’.
An Appreciative Orientation
Another important and exciting change that teachers value is an appreciative view of learning that supports differentiation. The appreciative view recognizes that each individual brings a diverse set of experiences, strengths and needs to the learning environment and that their rate of learning will vary accordingly.
The idea of ranking students or using language such as ‘not meeting expectations’ no longer fits with many classroom cultures because educators recognize learning as a process that takes time, requires greater support at the outset, and that proficiency is typically gained with practice. As such, an appreciative orientation is in keeping with the practice of the gradual-release-of-responsibility, embraces diversity, and enables educators to cultivate growth mindsets.
The ‘I Can!’ poster was developed in order to provide both teachers and students with a language that clearly conveys how learning is a process that requires support and time. Using the universal activity of learning to ride a bike, we share with students how this mirrors learning something new for all of us.
Whether its the acquisition of language as an infant, learning to read as a child, or learning something new as an adult, the I Can! poster illustrates the pathway to independence that learning typically takes. As teachers we might use ourselves as examples to explain that even adults, when learning something new, we often require support. So with our own students we cultivate learning cultures where varying rates of learning are normal, and where diversity is valued.
We also use the language of ‘direct support’, ‘guided support’, ‘independently’, and ‘taking it beyond’ when communicating progress to parents. In order to help parents understand the changes in reporting please see free Classroom Tools and look for ‘Letter to Parents”.