Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners by Nancy Frey et al. Chapter 2: Assessment-Capable Visible Learners know their current level of understanding (unless the grade gets in the way…) review.

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Chapter 1:  Defining Assessment Capable Learners and Teachers

Chapter 3 – Attention, motivation, approach to challenge and self regulation are critical for learners to become assessment-capable visible learners.

Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners, Grades K-12: Maximizing Skill, Will, and Thrill (Corwin Literacy) chapter 2 tackles one of the most difficult things to accomplish in a classroom:  Leading students to know their current level of understanding.  As we investigate a major outside force challenges the ability to of the teacher to foster students’ perceptions of self.

  • Grades at the high school level cloud how students view their current level of understanding.  Outside pressures darken those clouds.  Students quickly see themselves through the lenses of letter grades, admissions requirements, standardized test results, scholarship requirements and dreams of future income.

I find myself asking questions about each situation brought up in chapter 2 centered around how grades might change or affect the outcome.

A positive experience for students focused on spelling words demonstrates a few things at the beginning of chapter 2.  It’s important that classrooms foster a learning environment “where progress, not status is celebrated from page 22.”  So how do we focus the environment on progress, especially in a system that requires a grade?  Chapter 2 demonstrates a few things in this situation centered around spelling:

  • The teacher considers progress over status regularly.
  • Time is built into the design of instruction for the student to reflect and consider progress versus status.
  • Peers and the teacher offered feedback to the student in the process.

Lee Jenkins book, Optimize Your School, offers practical strategies that can be implemented right now to offer students more opportunities to reflect on the process and progress in learning.  Regular reflection on performance based on regular checks that cover all standards of a course allow students to see their progress and make their own adjustments in the learning process to improve performance.

Frey et al suggest on page 23 that “The starting point for students to know their current level of performance is in the development of confidence in their teacher.”  How can instructors find this starting point?  According to Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners, Grades K-12: Maximizing Skill, Will, and Thrill (Corwin Literacy) by Frey et al on page 24, “Teacher credibility involves three constructs:  ‘competence, character, and perceived caring.'”

In a World Language classroom, caring begins at the door.  A password in the target language offers an instructor a moment to check in with each student, if even for a moment.  Teachers can also guide students to consider the things they have already learned.  In a World Language classroom this can be accomplished through review of acquired vocabulary, reflection of writings in the target language with specific thought toward progress or using a text in the target language from an earlier time in the course to demonstrate to students how easy that material feels now that they have moved forward in acquisition.

Learning to Reflect

Chapter 2 continues with an explanation of the importance of recognition when we don’t know something as a part of the learning process.  We must coach students to be vulnerable as this recognition is essential for learning to occur.  And a lot of this happens meta-cognitively.  Therefore as instructors, we must balance content with regular opportunity for students to reflect and think about what they know and how they move toward where they want to be in their learning.  For me, Optimize Your School by Lee Jenkins equipped me with routine strategies that allow students the space and time to do this work.

I used to think the ideas in Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners, Grades K-12: Maximizing Skill, Will, and Thrill (Corwin Literacy), are difficult to foster in a classroom.  This was due in part to my lack of understanding of how to ask the right questions to guide students to such a vulnerable position and my limited understanding of continuous improvement within a system.  Our systems of education train students to live in correct answers.  But such a mindset as described in chapter 2 of Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners, Grades K-12: Maximizing Skill, Will, and Thrill (Corwin Literacy) requires learners to live in mistakes, errors and progress.  Routine checks with time for reflection allow students to see their own progress.

In my view, an instructor must throw out ideas centered around completing content and leading students to a certain point in curriculum to accomplish a mindset of recognition of what we know and don’t know.  But this is difficult.  All of those outside pressures come roaring back into the classroom like clouds on a storm front.  So what can we do?

Instructional Design

Continue to ask ourselves questions during instructional design so that we find the moments to lead students into reflection and vulnerability.  Chapter 2 describes the importance of assessing knowledge prior to instruction.  This process of assessment can be most powerful when we lead students to assess themselves in routine procedures that create a safe space for them.  We must redesign our thoughts around assessment.  Regular checks that cover all standards in a course are a must to help students engage in reflection over the process.  This allows them to see the steps they must take to end up at a mastery level of material in a course.  We must stop withholding content and skills from students until the unit of study that covers those specific elements.  Students deserve to see all learning goals for a course from the beginning.

As we find these moments, we will find ways to anchor instruction to what students already know as described on pages 34 and 35 of Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners, Grades K-12: Maximizing Skill, Will, and Thrill (Corwin Literacy).  If you are like me and struggle with ways to bring students to this place of vulnerability, Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners, Grades K-12: Maximizing Skill, Will, and Thrill (Corwin Literacy) will offer ideas to embed opportunities for students to experience the required place of vulnerability for learners to experience recognition of what they do and don’t know within a design that guides students to think about what they do and don’t know.

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