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Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners: Grades K-12 by Nancy Frey, John Hattie and Douglas Fisher is a recent addition to the educational empire these authors have built. See thoughts on Fisher, Frey and Smith’s Better than Carrots or Sticks here and other titles I have read at the must read books page. The goal of this title is broad and overarching. From the introduction on page 6, “In order to make learning visible, we must create assessment-capable learners. Too many students are adult-dependent learners. Others are compliant learners.” I think this quote can be applied to language acquisition. We can unlock students’ ability to acquire language by removing the distractions of a grammar based syllabus and replacing the focus with a responsive and comprehensible input based programs with the students in front of us.
As I prepare to jump into chapter 1, I must confess a feeling of uneasiness the title of this book brings to me. Can we develop Assessment-Capable Visible Learners without accessing students too much? Is this an ignorant question from me simply because I do not understand assessment as well as I should? I move into chapter 1 searching for ways to apply these ideas to how I might facilitate acquisition of language in my classroom more effectively.
Chapter 1 of Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners: Grades K-12 begins by seeking out how to define assessment-capable visible learners. The definition begins with an anecdote of one students’ success followed by a statement of the three conditions that are present when accelerated learning happens. Skill, will and thrill. Can we translate this into acquisition terms? Input, comprehensible and compelling… The definition of these conditions ends with this quote on page 11, “Job number one (for a teacher) is ensuring that her students know how to learn.” This seems correlated to ideas around acquisition. Our goal moves from skill based grammar competencies to responsive facilitation of acquisition centered around rich input that is understood by learners.
Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners: Grades K-12 continues with an explanation of learning. This explanation is followed by a list of characteristics in assessment-capable visible learners. As written on page 15 an assessment-capable visible learner:
- knows where he or she is going
- has tools for the journey
- monitors his or her progress
- recognizes when he or she is ready for what’s next
- knows what to do next.
These 5 characteristics appeal to me as I think about my students’ journey on Self Directed Reading as a part of their process of acquisition. Students consider their level of reading. We continually connect to reading socially with extension activities. Students monitor their progress with simple reading logs. Students choose to move up a level as their logs demonstrate ease of reading. Students consider new patterns of language as they move up in level of reading.
Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners: Grades K-12 continues with a description of high influence strategies that are most effective for student learning. They are as found on pages 16-19:
- Teacher Clarity – .75 effect size
- Teacher Expectations – .43 effect size
- Challenge – .72 effect size
- Self-Reported Grades – 1.44 effect size
- Student Expectations – 1.44 effect size
- Agency and Ownership through goal setting – .56 effect size
- Feedback – .73 effect size
Notice that the student focused strategies have a higher effect size. This demonstrates the importance of continually checking in with students perceptions of their own acquisition. We can double the effect of learning for students by focusing on their own expectations as we can when we create clear lessons, units and long term planning. It amazes me to think about that. In the trenches of teaching, it is easy to spend a lot of time to create clarity within our day to day progress. I wonder if we sacrifice important moments to foster student expectations and perceptions at times. Perhaps we should take a break from planning and check in with students more often.
Chapter 1 of Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners: Grades K-12 ends with a reminder that we should look to use the most effective strategies as possible but always consider where students are in the learning or acquisition process. For example, students cannot set their own expectations if they do not know where they are going on the learning journey. For us in the second language acquisition business, we must be careful with challenge. Acquisition shuts down when challenge of understanding input goes above Krashens i+1.
Overall, I find the ideas in Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners: Grades K-12 to have strong correlations with ideas in language acquisition. I see huge potential to connect the assessment-capable visible learner to the student who acquires language via Self Directed Reading or Free Voluntary Reading. I am left wondering if the language found in the chapter centered around the learning process is over simplified. What are the other variables that may affect learning that interfere with the strategies listed? How do we manage those while keeping an eye toward the most effective strategies? Perhaps Chapter 2 and beyond will answer my wonders.