Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners: Chapter 4 – Select Tools to Guide Their Learning

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Chapter 1Begins 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?

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

Chapter 4 of Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners by Frey, Hatie and Fisher offers numerous ways for educators to create self regulation opportunities for students in their learning journey.  The chapter begins with a classroom situation centered around a video production project.  On page 56 the teacher involved says, “I don’t want my students to remain overly dependent on procedures at the expense of recognizing their own choices.”  This quote describes a common situation in my comprehensible input based Latin classroom.  Procedures and rules work well for compliance and creating learning environments for a group, but is there a point that these procedures actually get in the way of language acquisition?  My guess is the answer is yes, but I imagine it would be extremely difficult to pinpoint procedures versus student choice in research studies of language acquisition.  So what should we do?

Offer as many opportunities for students to choose learning activities or content as possible.  Self directed reading is an obvious choice for students to have the chance to control what they read and regulate how reading goes for them.  Don’t forget to check out the SSR Handbook if you are looking for the best resource to start a choice based reading program.  Activities such as word sort tables, black out poetry, word clouds, choice boards, and language tasks all lead students to opportunities to regulate learning and consider where they are as they choose ways to process language.  What activities do you implement that create these opportunities for students as well?

Once we develop and discover these activities that offer students opportunities to solve problems in their own learning, the next step is to create routines that allow students to regularly use these activities and strategies.  From page 58 of Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners,

“To be sure, the tools students need to solve problems and forward their own learning must be taught, but more importantly, regularly used.  Strategic applications of tools are mental and intellectual skills, not behavioral ones.  Students are going to have a far more difficult time establishing learning habits if they are rarely given the opportunities to use them.”

Chapter 4 moves on to a discussion about “Learning How to Learn.”  Page 60 has a useful table to determine which study skills are cognitive skills, metacognitive and affective.  I imagine most educators will view these items and consider that they use them often in the classroom,  but I find myself wondering how often I influence a student to use these strategies on their own accord.  This seems the place that teaching moves from a science to an art.  Using strategies in class and having students differentiate themselves from our teacher personas to monitor their own learning are 2 very different scenarios.  We must continue to look for those moments to pass the monitoring of learning to the students in the room.

Chapter 4 of Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners continues with a discussion of practice and learning.  Here the ideas come in direct conflict with language acquisition research.  I find this part less than useful for my situation in a Latin classroom.  Here are a few reasons why.

On page 60 the authors claim, “Likewise, students need to practice academic skills in order to gain fluency and proficiency.  Most teachers create opportunities for guided practice as part of their teaching.  But creating assessment-capable visible learners means going a step further.  Teachers need to get students to engage in intentional practice in order for them to acquire and consolidate knowledge.”

The authors continue by quoting Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule of practice needed to become an expert.  Unfortunately, the authors continue to use sport analogies to explain the need for practice.  But where is the research that demonstrates this in respect to learning?  Acquisition research, such as by Stephen Krashen, demonstrates that language skills happen after a saturation point in language acquisition and even at times shows that forcing students to produce language before they are ready might actually be harmful to language acquisition.

The authors use their own research in this section and claim that “distributed practice is more effective than mass practice” (pg. 62) but where is the research that demonstrates that dedicated practice is actually worth it in respect to learning?  The authors seem to take a common practice in education and pass over it without a critical eye, which is disappointing.  Perhaps we should focus on where students are in the process of acquisition of concepts and topics and we should develop practice that will further their acquisition of key vocabulary and language to create mental representations for the student to fully understand the topic at hand.

According to the authors of Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners, study skills must be practiced.


The rest of chapter 4 of Developing Assessment-Capable Visible Learners continues with ideas and ways for learners to practice and consolidate learning.  Many are what any educator will expect such as graphic organizers and summarizing.  But the idea most practical to language classrooms is repeated reading which starts on page 69.  From page 69, “… repeated reading required a short passage of 50 to 200 words, read several times silently and aloud until sufficient levels of rate and accuracy were attained.”  This happens in most world language classrooms often, especially TPRS styled classrooms.

Although I question the authors claim that repeated reading is most effective “with corrective feedback,” this is a strategy that obviously aligns with acquisition research.  My guess is that grammar and form tests were used with corrective feedback to demonstrate positive effects for students.  See why error correction is problematic even when research claims a positive gain and results based on proficiency much later probably offer a better idea of what kind of language has actually been acquired at my post on error correction.

On page 70, “But repeated reading has the potential for building more than fluency and comprehension – it can build the habit of rereading.  Rereading behaviors and repeated reading draw on two related constructs.  The first, rereading, is a habit that ultimately is under the direction of the student.  The second, repeated reading is an instructional routine devised to build fluency and comprehension.


These habits are powerful.  Consider yourself as an adult reader.  How many times do you reread a line or paragraph for understanding?  Somewhere along the way you learned the importance of rereading as a strategy to help your understanding of a text.  But do you remember learning how to do this?  If you are like me at some point rereading became something that you just do as a part of the reading process.  Leading students to this skill is critical as we hope to lead them to become assessment-capable visible learners.  Find many ways to do this at the home page on this website.

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