Developing Assessment-Capable Visibile Learners: Learners Understand Where They’re Going and Have the Confidence to Take on the Challenge, Chapter 3 by Nancy Frey, John Hattie and Douglas Fisher.

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Chapter 1 – Begins with a definition of an assessment-capable visible learner.

Chapter 2 – How do we foster a learning environment that leads students to a place of vulnerability in recognition of learning?

The title of chapter 3 in Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners, Grades K-12: Maximizing Skill, Will, and Thrill (Corwin Literacy) reaches for the pinnacle of most teachers hopes for their classrooms.  Students understand what is next and are ready to jump into the work.  What gets in the way of this that makes me feel the title to this chapter is loaded with ambition?
Page 38 begins with a quote from a student.  “Whoa.  Mind blown.”  Have you heard that in class before?  Was it focused on the content of the day?  The chapter goes on to explore a science lesson centered on the brain.  The interest jumps off the page for most people in respect to this lesson.  Frey, Hattie and Fisher claim the high school student in the example on page 40:

  • understands his performance relative to learning intentions and success critieria
  • examines his own state of knowledge
  • identifies what he does and doesn’t know
  • displays self regulation
  • displays self motivation
  • maintains a level of attention to the topic

Consider yourself as an adult learning in respect to something you recently decided to learn.  For me, it is sighting in a firearm in preparation for deer hunting.  I understand that my shots have not been as tight to the center of the target as I would like.  Success centers around closing the shot pattern closer to the bullseye on the target.  I do not know how much my own body movements and breather affects the accuracy, therefore I take these variables out at this point.  I started this process last March in preparation for hunting this winter break.  I enjoy eating venison and am motivated to shoot better to increase my chance of having venison in the freezer.  I practiced about once every 6 weeks as my family scheduled allowed.  This winter, I shot a deer for the 1st time.

But throughout this process there were a lot of outside influences that increased my motivation.  I hunt with my father and had extra desire to improve to be accountable to him as a hunting partner.  My in-laws are excellent hunters.  A secondary goal of mine is to be able to join in on hunting conversations and sound somewhat knowledgeable in the process.  In recent years, I’ve made a significant diet change and I have a high desire to have lean meats like venison in our freezer.  Lastly, I enjoy being outside for hunting.

These 4 external motivators have a huge role and my desire to practice and improve the accuracy of my shooting.  But can we even create such a motivating environment in our classrooms full of students?  As I consider myself and my hunting goals I feel that achieving such connection to learning for 25+ kids in a classroom will be an extremely difficult goal although a noble pursuit.  But can this be broken down into a smaller goal that might be manageable?  Perhaps I can reach this moment at least once for each student to connect to at least 1 piece of content that we explore in Latin class.

Motivation must be cultivated regularly.

Chapter 3 of Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners, Grades K-12: Maximizing Skill, Will, and Thrill (Corwin Literacy) claims the teachers role is; to communicate clear learning intentions and success criteria with teacher clarity, offer opportunities for students to understand what they know, to link new knowledge to previous, and actively seeks to build relevance.  Whew!  I’m tired now.  I fear that Frey, Hattie and Fisher’s caricature of an effective teacher expects an enormous amount of responsibility for the teacher.  I see the importance of achieving these goals, but I wonder if our educational systems will even allow most teachers to achieve this level of effectiveness?  There is so much going on in that description and much of it is happening at the same time with 25+ students in the process.  What more can we do to create a system that allows more teachers to get to this point?

In summary of chapter 3, learning intentions and success criteria are the 1st step to guide students to understand themselves as learners.  This makes sense as we naturally need something to compare to figure out where we are in a progression of learning.  Learning targets and I can statements seem to be the most common way these are accomplished.

If learning intentions and success criteria start the process, relevance keeps the student going.  As described on pages 44 and 45 of Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners, Grades K-12: Maximizing Skill, Will, and Thrill (Corwin Literacy) relevance can be fostered by the connection of learning outside the classroom, by students learning about themselves as learners, and by connecting the value of becoming an educated member of the community to students.  Again, I wonder if Frey, Hattie and Fisher aim above the realities of a room of 25+ learners with 1 adult?

We must create relevance in our classrooms

After learning intentions, success criteria and relevance are established, Frey, Hattie and Fisher move on to teacher clarity in chapter 3 of Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners, Grades K-12: Maximizing Skill, Will, and Thrill (Corwin Literacy).  They break clarity down into 4 sections on page 46.  Clarity of organization, of explanation, of examples and guided practice and of assessment of student learning.  They continue an explanation of teacher clarity with some examples and move to attention to learning on page 49.

Frey, Hattie and Fisher claim that attention is influenced externally by the teacher.  They suggest that “clear and consistent signals and priming students for future learning” are the most important practices for teachers to influence attention.  Although these 2 items seem obvious positive influences when done well, once again I’m left wondering how the clarity or lack of clarity of the school and system as a whole might affect attention for students?

Attention requires teacher clarity

Chapter 3 of Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners, Grades K-12: Maximizing Skill, Will, and Thrill (Corwin Literacy) by Frey, Hattie and Fisher discusses 3 more important factors to learning.  Motivation, aspiring to challenge and self-efficacy/self regulation.  A careful analysis concludes that these 3 ideas in learner are weaved along with attention in a complicated fashion.  They must be cultivated on a regular basis and teachers must be aware of how clarity or lack of clarity might affect the complex maneuvering of students attention, motivation, approach to challenges and self-regulation within each lesson.

Teacher clarity is critical.  Frey, Hattie and Fisher make this clear.  What gets in the way of your clarity in the classroom?  Start with small changes in those spaces to help your students become Assessment-capable visible learners.

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