I want to thank Rhonda for pointing me towards two videos. Dylan Wiliam, author of “Embedded formative assessment” sets up an experimental school classroom. He works with teachers and students in grade 8 to test simple ideas that he believes could improve the quality of the student’s education. His research paper “Inside the Black Box” is cited in much current assessment literature.
As I watched this video, I was struck by Dylan’s comment about students being our greatest resource. His words reminded me of many times in my career when I taught what I thought was a great lesson. However sometimes, the lesson didn’t do what it was supposed to do….ensure the students understood and could apply their knowledge. To encourage response, the teacher in Part 1 of this series, uses green, yellow and red cups. Students keep the green cup at the top of the stack if they understand and are good to go, the yellow cup if they are unsure and the red if they are really confused. I love this simple teaching technique that encourages the learner to monitor understanding (one of the most important thinking strategies we can teach kids and use as learners). This technique (as well as the whiteboard technique in the vide0) lets the teacher know at a glance if students are getting it. In this particular section, many students display a red cup and it is clear by their actions that they are NOT getting it. It reminded me of how important it is to pay attention to cues and address misconceptions or misunderstandings. A choice to ignore certain cues, misunderstandings continue and the gap gets even bigger.
We cannot just assume that a child is learning and must take the time to encourage and teach students to recognize when they do not understand and to take appropriate actions that lead to full understanding. That in a nutshell is self assessment. Despite brilliant lessons and activities, many kids every day are left behind….they don’t get it. This video made me stop and ask: “What instructional strategies am I using that ensure I am teaching for understanding?” (of outcomes of course) 🙂
I think most would agree that if we want to check if what has been learned has been learned the learner would be the logical choice for confirming this. Yet, as Dylan says we often don’t ask him/her. Eventually the students in Part 1 understand that good feedback is important to learning and begin to participate in self assessment. Wiliam explains that effective feedback needs to direct attention to what’s next rather than focusing on how well or badly the student did on the work. If we embrace the idea of feedback as a recipe for future action, we must allow time, in class, to work on using the feedback to improve work.
This video showed the importance of staff working together to explore engagement and their work was not easy work. All but one student became engaged in their learning by the end of the term. Can’t wait to watch Part 2 to see if that student does become engaged.