Learning Targets--Helping Students Aim for Understanding in Today's Lesson
By Connie M. Moss & Susan M. Brookhart
I highly recommend that you read this book. It will really help your understanding of what Learning Targets are and their importance.
*I found used copies on Amazon.com-very inexpensive to purchase ISBN 978-1-4166-1441-8
I'm going to highlight the important points that I've taken from each chapter throughout the next few weeks so I hope you follow...
Chapter 5: Developing Assessment-Capable Students
This chapter focuses on student goal setting and self-assessment, processes that depend on students’ understanding of both the target and the process of working toward it.
To engage in learning, students need answers to the three central questions of the formative assessment process: Where am I going? Where am I now? How can I close the gap between where I am now and where I want to go?
Learning targets are the key to developing assessment-capable students—that is, students who regulate their own learning by answering these three questions as they work. It’s the teacher’s job to increase the skill (the ability to self-assess) and the will (the disposition to self-assess) most of the important data-driven decision makers of all: the students.
*Research on the Effects of Student Self-Assessment
When teachers present to their classes a view of learning from students’ perspective, they develop students’ ability to regulate their own learning. Developing assessment-capable students who know the learning target for the lesson, can describe where they are in relation to the criteria for success, and can use that information to select learning strategies to improve their work is the number-one factor for improving student achievement.
*Learning is an active process and students are the agents to their own learning.
Good self-assessment requires students to recognize these characteristics in their own work, and to be able to translate their self-assessments into action plans for improvement.
The ability to use self-assessment information to regulate one’s own learning and behavior is a strong predictor of future academic and professional success.
*Three Guiding Questions and the Formative Assessment Process
-Where am I going?
-Where am I now?
-How can I close the gap between where I am now and where I want to go?
These questions guide the formative assessment process and focus everything that happens in the classroom: what the teacher does, what the students do, and what the teacher and students do together.
Most important, students who become skilled at using this process “learn how to learn”. It all starts with students understanding where they are going—their learning target.
*Using a Formative Learning Cycle to Develop Assessment-Capable Students
When classroom lessons consist of do-or-die tasks or assignments—one-time-only chances to demonstrate mastery—students have little chance or reason to learn how to assess their own work and to value the process. In sharp contrast, the formative learning cycle teaches and encourages students to improve their work as part of today’s lesson.
A basic formative learning cycle begins when the teacher models and explains the lesson’s learning target and criteria for success—where students are headed in the lesson, how they will know when they get there, and how they will demonstrate their learning.
After the teacher explains the learning target, the students engage in guided practice, with the teacher scaffolding students’ understanding of the success criteria and their ability to use the criteria to gauge the quality of their work. The students then engage in the performance of understanding without teacher guidance, trying out their learning to see where they are in relation to the success criteria. Immediately following students’ independent performance, the teacher provides formative feedback to help them accurately assess what they did well and what they should do to improve their performance. The teachers’ feedback will also help students select a strategy to use on their next attempt. This informed second chance is a powerful motivational factor that strengthens students’ views of themselves as assessment-capable.
*Using Learning Targets to Support Student Self-Assessment
-Every student should be able to answer these two questions for today’s lesson:
-What am I learning (the learning target)?
-How will I know when I’ve learned it (the success criteria)?
-Every teacher should be able to answer the parallel set of questions:
-What is important for my students to learn and be able to do in this lesson?
-How will I know whether they’ve learned it?
*Where Am I Going?
It is crucial to share learning targets in a way that supports students’ self-assessment. Here are some strategies:
-Help students envision success criteria by organizing them as student-friendly rubrics, checklists, or displays.
-Provide examples of work at all levels and time for students to sort examples by success criteria.
-Use goal-directed language to explain how learning success in today’s lesson fits into the learning trajectory.
*Where Am I Now?
Different learning targets need different performance of understanding and, therefore, different self-assessment strategies.
For learning targets involving concepts, use self-reflection strategies or indicator system.
Self-reflection sheets usually state a goal for students (or ask them to state it) and have them reflect of the quality of their work on one or more performances of understanding.
**There is a great example on page 85, 5.1: Strengths and Weaknesses Student Tool
Students identify the performance of understanding (the assignment) at the top and then reflect on their strengths and weaknesses. Teachers can use the weightlifting imagery as a way to help students talk about how they developed their strengths and decide what “exercises” they should do to improve their weaknesses.
*By indicator systems, we mean “traffic light” color-coding, happy/sad faces, or any other coding system through which students can indicate their level of confidence in their work or their level of understanding of the concepts they are working with. Individual students can use indicator systems on their own work—for example, putting a green sticker on an assignment they have reviewed and decided they understood and succeeded on, a red sticker on an assignment they have decided is of poor quality, but do not know how to improve, and a yellow sticker on an assignment they are not sure about.
*Example of 4th grade students self-assessing using the metaphor of an automobile windshield: the indicator categories are “glass” (I can see clearly), “bug” (I can see partly), and “mud” (I can’t see anything).
These indicator systems help students in two ways:
First, students’ self-reflection itself furthers their awareness of the learning target and their work in relation to it.
Second, they help students see where their next steps should occur. The symbols also enable teachers to give appropriate, helpful feedback focused on student-identified needs.
Whole classes can also use indicator systems for simultaneous self-assessment that the teacher can observe with a visual sweep of the classroom. For learning targets involving simple concepts or problems, student can “vote” the answers to questions by responding to a question with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down or other hand signals (for example, holding up one to five fingers to indicate a level of understanding from “non” to “complete”).
Younger children can move more dramatically (for example, “Stand up if you think oil and water will mix when we stir them together”).
For multiple-choice questions, students can hold up response cards with letters (A, B, C, or D) or use electronic response systems (“clickers”).
Students can answer short constructed-response questions (for example, writing simple sentences or solving simple math problems) on whiteboards.
*For learning Targets Involving Writing, Use Self-Reflection and Self-or Peer-Editing
The writing process is a classic example of the formative learning cycle. Each stage—prewriting, drafting, revising, proofreading, and publishing—provides an opportunity to self-evaluate and decide on strategies for improvement. Any performance of understanding that asks students to write something over time—a report, for example—you can build in self-or peer-editing opportunities along the way.
*For Learning Targets Involving Facts, Use Tracking Methods
Students can use graphs or charts to keep track of their progress toward learning targets involving facts, such as mathematical facts, vocabulary words, lists of states and capitals, or elements and their properties. For example, they might use a line graph or bar graph to display their scores on weekly math quizzes. After students make each entry in the graph, ask them whether they were satisfied with their performance—if so, elaborating on how they accomplished it, and if not, what they plan to do differently before the next quiz.
Another type of tracking method is a category system, which helps students learn by categorizing and grouping facts.
*For Learning Targets Involving Content from Subject-Area Textbooks, Use Summarizing and Self-Testing Methods.
Students can summarize reading in their own words and evaluate how confident they are that they have understood the main points and details. Suggest that they discuss their summaries with peers. Students can also write their own lists of factual and inferential and concepts that they believe they understand as well as words and ideas they find difficult. All of these methods engage students in processing the material, not just memorizing it.
*For Learning Targets Involving Complex Performances, Use Self-Assessments with Rubrics
Complex performances require students to demonstrate more than one learning target. For example, students might solve a problem and explain their reasoning. Or they might prepare a report on a historical event, using research, historical analysis, and writing skills. Complex performances are good occasions to use co-created or student-transcribed rubrics on examples of work across a range of quality levels and then on students’ own work.
One way to do this is to have students use highlighters with rubrics. To use this method, students must have a clear understanding of the learning target.
To compare their work against a rubric, students need to read and understand the performance description for all the levels of each criterion. Only then can students accurately highlight key phrases in the rubric from the level that they think describes their work. As their “evidence,” they can use the same-color highlighter to mark elements of the writing in their drafts that show they have met the highlighted standards.
**Page 88, 5.2 provides examples of how teachers can organize learning targets and success criteria as a metacognitive tool to promote self-assessment.
*Discuss the Accuracy and Fairness of Student Self-Assessments by Comparing them Against Success Criteria.
Self-assessments using rubrics or other tools are even more effective when they become vehicles for student-teacher discussion on the accuracy of students’ self-judgments. Teach students to self-assess accurately by working on two different aspects of student of student self-judgment.
First, make sure students truly understand the learning target and the success criteria; students can be accurate judges of the quality of their work only to the extent that they understand the learning target and the success criteria deeply; and only when they share a similar understanding of quality with their teacher.
Second, recognize that some students will look at their work through “rose-colored glasses,” evaluating it as they wish it to be, not as it actually is, while other students will just rush through the self-evaluation without thinking much about it. Providing feedback on the accuracy and fairness of their self-assessments is the best way to strengthen students’ self-assessment skills.
*Provide Descriptive, Nonjudgmental Feedback that Models Accurate Assessment of Student Strengths and Needs by Fairly Comparing the Student’s Work against the Success Criteria.
Students learn how to evaluate their work against criteria by watching their teachers model the process, by talking about it, and by seeing the difference it can make in the eventual quality of their work. For your part, model accurate assessment and fair comparison against the criteria, then provide an immediate opportunity for students to use that feedback and observe the results. These strategies contribute to a learning culture in the classroom by demonstrating that teacher feedback and student self-assessment are two sides of the same coin, that both are “safe,” and that both contribute to learning.
*How can I Close the Gap between Where I Am Now and Where I want to Go?
-Helping students identify their next learning move and follow through with it is potentially the most important step in the self-assessment process.
-Help students set realistic and accurate goals by comparing their work against the success criteria. Frame rubrics as maps to success by sharing them with students before the lesson, using their language to explain the lesson, and helping students apply the rubrics’ criteria to drafts of their work. Realistic goals can be derived from rubrics’ performance-level descriptions. If a student’s work is at level 2 on a rubric, for example, an obvious goal would be to raise his performance level to 3. That’s a performance goal, not a learning goal, but if the rubric is well constructed, the student can make the performance goal a learning goal by using the performance-level description associated with performance at level 3.
For some learning targets, the performance of understanding can be literally tracked as rings on a target (see figure 5.3 pg.90).
-Inner ring: Bull’s eye! I can do this well all the time
-Next ring: Close! I know what I’m doing, just need practice
-Next ring: Getting better. I’m starting to understand what to do
-Outer ring: Just beginning. I’m not sure how to do this yet.
*Teach Targeted Learning Strategies as an Integral part of the Lesson
You should give students strategies for doing every lesson, in all subjects and at all grade levels. Some students can figure out strategies on their own. But if you provide strategies, you give all students methods for approaching their work. Suggest a strategy and then ask other students to share how they might approach the work. A brief discussion of this nature gets students to share, provides all students with a variety of suggestions about how to work, and—most important—communicates to students that they should be active and strategic learners who are continually figuring out how to learn.
*Provide Feedback that Identifies a Strategy for Growth Linked to the Success Criteria, and give Students a Chance to Use the Feedback to Improve
In addition to providing description of where students are now and description of where they need to go next, teachers should suggest strategies that students can use to get to where they need to go.
*Scaffold Self-Assessment Skills in All Learners
All students can and should learn how to self-assess—to observe themselves and adapt what they are doing as a means to improve their work and understand their growing competence over time.
As with any concept or skill, different students have different strengths and needs when it comes to accurately assessing their own work and using that information to regulate what they do to improve it Scaffolding any new skill requires that we provide incremental challenge and support as we pull our students to higher levels of competence. Figure 5.4 on page 93 illustrates how teachers can enhance student self-assessment by adjusting their level of support in accordance with each student’s growing competence.
Learning targets are the foundation of student self-assessment. They are also the foundation of differentiated instruction.
Next week we will look at Chapter 6: Using Learning Targets to Differentiate Instruction.
As I’ve said each week, this is a great book with a lot of examples, tables and charts that I’m not including in the post. I highly recommend that you purchase a copy of the book for further information and study.
Until next week…