Empower: How do we adjust our view of assessment in ways that will make room for students to assess their own learning? Provide an example of new thinking.
Just in case someone is reading my blog for the first time, I am a social worker. My assessment of skills may look different from group to group or child to child. It all depends on why I see them. However, I am going to focus on one group of students in particular. I have set times with this group four days a week for twenty minutes each session. This group happens to have some behavioral challenges.
Generally, we as adults look for behavioral changes to identify if students are internalizing the skills that they are learning. It is one way to see what they know. We can see if their behavior has changed by how they are performing on their individualized behavior plan. Yet, how do I hear from them about what they are learning and internalizing about the material?
Knowing these students for several years, I know that they learn best from hands on, interactive material. They are quick to acquire knowledge, but identifying ways to keep them engaged in the learning process can be a challenge.
With their help, we quickly identified that there are very few games for their age to reinforce and practice skill set they are learning. As a group, we decided to that we could create a board game with the information they have learned and turn it into a game that other school children could benefit from.
As I read through the chapters in Empower, especially chapter 7, I felt like those were the phases that we have been following. It has been a slow process, but along the way as they are designing the questions for the game, the categories and how many points the "right" answers are worth, they have been showing me what they know (assessing, right?). The kids decided to use an old board game to help them with their physical design of the board, they identified skills cards with questions, they types of pawns and dice. They are currently working on the rules and explanation of the game. We have looked at other games for ideas of how to write the rules of the game, watched you tube videos about creating board games. We created a Google doc to house our thoughts, assignments, and next steps. Through this process, they understand that others will have to test the game and the purpose and process of the game should be clear to others.
As I said earlier, I rely on others to help me assess their progress in other parts of the school. However, I am able to assess what they know by what they are contributing to this game. They are motivated to create and show others their game. They work on it during appropriate times within the class room; they sometimes will e-mail me new thoughts and will check in on each other’s progress. This entire project is a way for me to assess what THEY know, not what OTHERS are telling me they see. They are motivated learners and are motivated to share what they have learned with others.
I think that once they are able to share this game with others, they will be able to demonstrate even more the extent of their knowledge. More importantly, they will be able to assess their own knowledge through peer assessment, conferencing and self reflection. We are not yet to the parts of the process in chapter 8. This is happening slowly; it is a process, right?
EMPOWER: John & AJ distinguish Fail-URE as permanent while Fail-ING as a process is temporary. Describe how you see these terms play out in your classroom. EMPOWER is a celebration of the impact teachers can have on the lives of their students. How do we amplify that impact when we empower students?
There are so many things that I connected with in these chapters. I love that the discussion isn't just about the concept of innovative within the classroom, it goes beyond that. The notion of innovation within the classroom is definitely important but how do you do that within the contraints of standards or curriculum maps, etc.
I think I mentioned it last week, that it doesn't matter how the students get the information as long as they get it! Students can utilize voice and choice to choose their learning path to get to the outcome. I enjoyed that chapter 5 acknowledges that there are guidelines that teachers need to follow, but how they get there is subject to interpretation.
Honestly, I am not sure that I agree with the concept of Fail-URE as permenant and Fail-ING as a temporary process. it might be the sociology major in me coning out with my next stream of thoughts. I believe that every experience you have shapes your line of thinking. Whether it is a positive or negative experience, it shapes your learning progression. I feel that this line of thinking applies all aspects of our lives.
Within the social work realm, I think that it is important for me to guide students in several ways. The first is helping them identify the areas that they need the most support, which is the area that is causing the interruption in their learning. I can identify the area, but they need to understand how the behavior is impacting them negatively.
They need time figure out what it is that is preventing them from accessing all of their opportunity to learn. Sometimes, this can be the most challenging aspect. It is hard to acknowledge that you have challenges and then admit them to someone else. There is also the competing factor that these children range in ages 3-13, gaining insight as to how to change internally to have a greater gains externally is just plain hard.
Once they have recognized what thought process, behavior or stopping block is getting in their way, then we can start the process. Just like in the classroom, every student is at a different place academically and we want to get to the end point. However, the road each student takes can be very different...that is the creative and innovative part of learning. Therapeutically, it is the same process, everyone's healing, learning and changing behaviors may have the same goal but how we get there will be different for everyone.
That is my challenge to overcome. Generally, I have a very short time frame with students to allow them to dig deep to figure out what will be the best way for them to learn what they need to be more successful. Time is not always my friend. I can have plan time in my day, but my day is lead by student needs. I need better time management skills, but I have a hard time prioritizing planning and paperwork over a student who needs time to cope with their feelings.
When I have time, to follow the lead of a student who expresses interest in particular way of learning or coping with something, it is just awesome. Empower discussed Mr. Flynn (a teacher) and the impact that he had on the author. He mentioned that Mr. Flynn may not have ever known the impact he had. The one simple suggestion or taking the time to talk with a student had a greater impact than the teacher could ever know.
This week my fantastic colleagues, had students write thank you notes for School Social Work Week. It was so thoughtful and heartfelt without me even reading any of the notes. Once I did, reading how "I" impacted them was amazing and reassuring, but really all I did was follow their lead.
My role is different than that of teachers, as I am a school social worker. So my thoughts are coming from a different educational lense then some of the other educators taking this class.
One of the first things that I read in the foreword was the "Student Agency" graphic. The graphic noted the words compliance, engagement and empowerment. These concepts are constancy resonating with me. Being that I work with every teacher and am in and out of everyo classroom, I see amazing teaching all day.
I love seeing how students are being creative with there projects and approaches to their learning. I do think that innovation in education is critical. However, I do think that there needs to be a balance of creativity and innovation within the classroom and structure and expectations. Sometimes people associate creativity with freedom and no limits. I do think that having compliance, to a certain degree, it also important.
Setting up a learning environment to be supporting and trusting is the most critical aspect to building a classroom full of innovators. At the same time, there needs to be clear expectations and guidelines for the learning environment. This is the compliance peace that I feel can be misleading. Maybe compliance is being viewed as the "old school" way of learning of sit and listen. However, compliance ot me can also mean learning the "new school" way of learning. Teaching student students to have a growth mindset, that learning happens by trial and error and perseverance are critical traits. There still needs to be parameters for what that looks like within a learning environment.
When students are not given the proper structures for sharing their ideas, accepting feedback and team work, then it can just become chaos. Giving students an opportunity to learn something that is of interest is just awesome. But we need to make sure that there are guidelines for creating a classroom culture to to cultivate with expectations. With those structures in mind, I think you will tap even more potential in our young learners.
I am not sure I articulate my thoughts in this very well. Essentially, I think that it is important to have guidelines and expectations while promoting creative thinking.