Margin Notes

Conversations About Artifacts of Learning: Student Self-Assessment


How Do We Create Opportunities for Students to Self-Assess in Meaningful Ways?

This is a summary of our fourth conversation about artifacts of student learning as part of our Visible Learning project with our colleagues Michelle Wuest and Shelley Hanson and their grade 11 students at Leo Hayes High School.  You can read a description of the project here: Making Learning Visible

At the beginning of the quarter, Shelley Hanson had her students write specific goals in each of the ELA strands: Speaking and Listening, Reading and Viewing, and Writing and Representing. The experience shared below focuses on how Shelley created classroom conditions that invited students to reflect on their progress toward their individual goals for the Speaking and Listening strand.

After engaging in different types and formats of conversations since September, students were ready to transition from participants to facilitators.  As a whole class, students brainstormed topics of interest, which ranged from the minimum age for legal marijuana usage to the ethics of keeping animals in zoos. They were then able to choose the topic that most interested them and this is how small groups were formed – by a common interest in a topic.

Each member researched their topic and shared new learning with their group (although we stated this post would focus on speaking and listening, it is impossible to really separate the strands!). Next, each group chose a type of conversation to hold with the class. Possibilities included: think-pair-share, pin-wheel roundtable, fishbowl, Socratic circle, cross the line, and whole class discussion.

After the groups held their conversation pieces with their classmates, they were asked to reflect in writing on whether or not they had made progress towards their individual goals.

Once again, we followed a protocol for examining these artifacts of learning based on the Project Zero “See-Think-Wonder” thinking routine to structure our conversations and capture our thinking and reflections.  We recorded the conversation and below are summaries of our observations, wonderings, and reflections.

We see…

  • a number of students making the connection between their Speaking and Listening goals and their Reading and Viewing goals by recognizing that they met many of their goals simultaneously by talking with others about their reading and their reactions to ideas in texts.

“As our group prepared for the conversation piece, I also practiced several skills in the reading/viewing area too.  I evaluated the purpose of text in different perspectives and connected with my personal experience.”

  • students explicitly naming the intentional choices they made as facilitators of conversation.

“One thing that my group did well was we showed both sides of the argument equally.”

“Although it may have seemed that we ‘winged’ our whole talk we actually put a lot of hard work into making it a presentation that the class would have an easy time attending to.”

  • recognition that the level of conversation was elevated by critical thinking and vice versa.

“Making text-to-self connections made it easier to explain my personal responses to the class.”

“The only issue is that this kind of game creates a dichotomy when there could be grey area in the middle.”

  • evidence that interest in and relevance of the topic played a key role in students’ engagement in the conversation.

“In our conversation piece I felt that questions the class could relate to and had experience with or affect them generated more discussion.”

“If we had a topic more people were interested in I feel like we would have gotten more discussion.”

We think…

  • the process of goal-setting followed by reflection has made students much more intentional in their use of skills and strategies and of attending to their own progress by noticing and gathering evidence of their progress.

“Some of the goals I made progress in for speaking and listening we elaborating on others’ ideas, defending my point of view, using language to persuade others, ask and respond to questions about texts.  I felt that I really pushed myself by speaking out and participating a lot.”

  • these students are becoming skilled at incorporating specific examples into their reflections.

“I also adapted language based on my audience and purpose.  When I was up presenting I tried to stay neutral in my opinion and be respectful of others’ opinions.  I also thought I listened critically to others when they were presenting or talking.”

“One thing I felt my group did well is gathering information on the topic from our school like the budgets for the fine arts and the athletics.’

  • Students are recognizing multiple perspectives on topics.

“One thing my group did well was showing both sides of the argument so that people could form an opinion with the facts of both sides in their minds.”

  • Many students made keen observations about the power of questions to sustain conversation.

“That question was what sprung our debate and took our conversation to the next level.  I think that question has many broad answers to it and can go a lot of different ways.”

“The questions that worked the best were the ones where you had to support your side because the class had to show evidence.”

“That question worked well because everyone could really form an opinion based on personal experience.”

We wonder…

  • How can we get even more “buy-in” from students regarding self-assessment and reflection? Would showing students excerpts of current research on the importance of self-assessment and the growth that comes from reflection help students see the value?
  • Will students see more value in these practices as they are provided multiple opportunities?
  • Would a mini-lesson on clear goals vs. vague goals help students form and articulate more clearly their goals?

*Feedback That Moves Writers Forward by Patty McGee

  • Would helping students break goals up into “baby step suggestions or strategies” detailed in Feedback that Moves Writers Forward by Patty McGee help students notice progress in a more timely and detailed manner?

Where do we go from here…

Shelley’s goal regarding creating conditions for meaningful self-assessment and reflection is to have students assess goals before each assignment to remind them of the skills they are working on and to have them reflect on their practice and progress after each assignment they are asked to complete. This lends credence and authenticity to the things we ask students to do, helps them understand why they are doing it, what they are working on, be more aware of the progress they are making, and help them create new goals as learning occurs. She also wants to work with students on creating goals that are more “baby steps” than “giant leaps” and share some research with students explaining what they gain as learners from goal setting, self-assessment, and reflection.

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