I spend a lot of time talking with teachers about data. Data is at the core of much of what we do at Knowre and it is also at the core of how many of our teachers make instructional decisions in their classrooms.
In most classrooms teachers are the primary collectors and analyzers of data. In a smaller number of classrooms, however, teachers are opening up this process to their students as a way to further engage them in the learning process.
The use of data in education is not new. Teachers and administrators have long been using data in various forms to make decisions about student and class needs. The regular monitoring and use of data was thrust to the forefront more recently with the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2002. NCLB required districts to test students in math and reading and to report out the results in a variety of ways. While the legislation was controversial given the ways in which it tied funding to outcomes, it did usher in a new age of testing and data monitoring.
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) which followed in 2015 maintained the requirement to test students in reading and math once a year from 3rd through 8th grade, and again once in high school, but expanded flexibility regarding which tests could be used. ESSA also sought to limit the total number of assessments that students were taking and allocated money to explore alternative assessment options that aligned with competency and personalized learning models.
The shift to compliance with these Acts, combined with the introduction of a huge number of EdTech tools and the advent of interim assessments, ushered in a new day of assessment and data collection in schools.
No matter how the data is being collected, measurement is taking place simply because people want and need to know whether or not what they are doing is working. This desire for feedback is ingrained in the human psyche. We are constantly collecting feedback both consciously and unconsciously that allows us to move safely in the world around us. In the school context, feedback helps students understand where they are in their learning process and also can help guide their next steps.
When I was in school (K-12) most of the feedback I received in math class came during the beginning of class when we checked our homework, or at the end of class when we received a test or quiz back. Frankly, though I was curious how many I got right and wrong, homework never seemed to matter too much since we didn’t hand it in. As for quizzes and tests, they were often looked at and then shoved into our backpacks. Though there is nothing wrong with either of these things, minus the crinkled paper of course, we are lucky today that students have much more regular opportunities to receive feedback.
Regular feedback is important to the development of students as learners. Much has been written, especially in the research of Carol Dweck, about the power of a growth rather than fixed mindset. Those with a growth mindset believe that intelligence can be developed, while those with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence is static. By continuously reflecting on their learning students are given the chance to see the learning process in action. It is much harder to ignore the fact that intelligence can be developed when you are acknowledging concepts that you know now but did not before.
Have you already begun to engage students in the process of reflecting on their learning in ways that don’t involve traditional assessments? Interested in trying it out for the first time?
We’ve developed two worksheets that engage students in the process of learning reflection. The first gives students a chance to reflect on their knowledge of a particular topic. The goal is give students a chance to think about their learning process and determine next steps actions. Critically, this process helps students see learning as a process rather than as a series of distinct tasks.
The second worksheet is focused on how students learn more broadly. The prompts on this worksheet allow students to express how they learn best and which strategies they find to be most effective. In addition to being a valuable exercise in and of itself, this worksheet can provide helpful insight to teachers and can be a great basis for one-on-one conversation with students.
It is important to note that these worksheets are not only to be used once. We encourage you to build these reflection activities, and others like them, into your class regularly. The more often students are asked to reflect, the more comfortable and effective the process will be.
As we continue to educate in a time where students are taking many traditional assessments to help us as educators determine their proficiency levels, let’s also consider the ways we can involve students in this process so they can become more active and reflective learners.
Have other strategies you use at your schools? We’d love to hear about them and share them with other Knowre Math educators through our monthly newsletter. Please send your approaches and ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.