I clearly recall a professional development session that I once attended in which the presenter showed an image of a disheveled teacher with his hair all a mess, shirt half untucked, sweat dripping from the forehead, and a pure look of exhaustion on his face. The presenter asked the audience of teachers to raise their hand if they have ever felt like this at the end of a school day. Needless to say, the majority of the hands in the room shot up immediately. He then followed it up with an image of a very well-kept teacher with a huge smile who was kicking his heels as he walked down the school hallway. The presenter continued by saying that at the end of the school day, it is the teachers who leave feeling completely exhausted while the students leave with enormous amounts of energy. This is because the teachers do so much of the work all day long! How can we turn the tables so that the students leave completely exhausted while the teachers are full of energy? One way to begin this transition is to involve the students as active participants in their own learning throughout the assessment process.
In the book Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning by Jan Chappuis, the author provides a framework of seven strategies that apply high-impact formative assessment actions across disciplines and content standards (p. 10). These seven strategies provide direction to help students reflect on their own learning process in order to answer the following questions:
Where am I going?
Where am I now?
How can I close the gap?
To answer the question Where am I going?, two strategies need to be utilized.
Strategy 1: Provide a Clear and Understandable Vision of the Learning Target
Giving students a vision of their learning destination will help them stay on the right track and check-in on their learning.
Strategy 2: Use Examples and Models of Strong and Weak Work
Help students sort through what is quality work and what is not quality work by using strong and weak models from anonymous student work. This lets students “see” what their ultimate destination looks like.
To answer the question Where am I now?, two strategies need to be utilized.
Strategy 3: Offer Regular Descriptive Feedback During the Learning
Effective feedback identifies student strengths and weaknesses with respect to the specific learning target(s) they are trying to achieve. Students also need to be given opportunities to act on that feedback to improve their work. This allows students to grow with guidance before being expected to achieve mastery.
Strategy 4: Teach Students to Self-Assess and Set Goals for Next Steps
This is the point in which the ownership of the learning is transferred to the student. When students are taught to self-assess and set goals, they are taught to provide their own feedback.
To answer the question How can I close the gap?, three strategies need to be utilized.
Strategy 5: Use Evidence of Student Learning Needs to Determine Next Steps in Teaching
During this strategy, a feedback loop is incorporated into the teaching cycle. After the lesson has been delivered and students have responded to the feedback, teachers determine further learning needs.
Strategy 6: Design Focused Instruction, Followed by Practice with Feedback
This strategy involves addressing specific misconceptions or problems identified in Strategy 5 by narrowing the focus of the lesson. Students are then given opportunities to revise their work based on focused feedback.
Strategy 7: Provide Opportunities for Students to Track, Reflect On, and Share Their Learning Progress
By reflecting on their learning, students will deepen their understanding and will remember it longer. Sharing their progress will help them develop a deeper commitment to making progress.
To learn more about these Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning by Jan Chappuis and how to effectively implement the strategies as part of the teaching routine, I highly recommend purchasing the book. Not only will the students take more ownership of their learning and show improved academic achievement, but teachers will appreciate the new-found energy that they now have from involving students in the assessment process!