Monday, August 31, 2015

Tracking Student Progress

Teaching Like One-Eyed Willy
You've already heard me talk about John Hattie's list of areas that are most influential on student achievement. Toward the top of the list are things like self-reporting grades, formative assessment strategies, quality feedback, and metacognitive strategies. All of these share a common link: The STUDENTS take on the primary role of managing their learning. Now I'd like to talk about The Goonies.

Remember The Goonies? This movie was about a rag-tag group of youngsters who follow a treasure map in the hopes of saving their run-down neighborhood from being taken over by wealthy land developers. The treasure map was left behind by the most infamous pirate ever to torment the coastal Pacific Northwest. (Pacific Northwestern pirate? That's one of those details that slid right past my 10-year-old self.) And it turns out, he was one heck of a teacher, as well!

Willy's treasure map offered it all: A clear-cut goal at the end. A "roadmap" for how the hunters are to get there. Lessons that challenge and push students out of their comfort zone. Real-time feedback. And a chance for students to monitor their progress toward the goal.

Students benefit in many ways when they are able to take ownership for their learning:
  • They have a clear idea of what the end product/goal looks like. We spent a decent amount of time last year talking about how to make the CLSs more visible/accessible for the students. Many of us posted the CLSs in our classrooms. We spent class time and developed resources to help our students understand what it truly means to be proficient with our CLSs. And we designed instructional materials to more deliberately address the CLSs.
  • They can see the checkpoints leading up to the end product. For anyone who has ever run a road race or gone on a diet, seeing your progress along the way is pretty motivational. It's the same thing with learning. Check out this CLS from our Biology class. There are a lot of parts, so learning this CLS is complicated. Imagine the impact when a student is able to see what he/she has learned and what still needs to be covered.

  • They will be more focused on the details. A couple years ago, I realized my now-8-year-old couldn't tell me how to get home from places we traveled to frequently. He was merely a passenger in the car, and didn't pay attention to the details. We've all had that student who says, "Is this on the test?" In a way, the student is telling us that he merely wants to be a passenger rather than an active learner. My son quickly learned to how to get home when I made him my "co-pilot." Making your students judge their progress toward the CLS will do the same thing.
What Others Are Doing
Still not convinced about the power of having the students track their progress? Check out The School District of Palm Beach County's website. They provide several resources to support teachers' efforts to develop systems to track student progress. And it looks as if tracking student progress is an expectation for everyone. I'd recommend checking out this page.

What Can You Do?
Try out one of these strategies:
  • Have your students chart their scores throughout a unit to track growth.
  • Use any of a number of formative assessment strategies. (I like the one the teacher uses in the video on the bottom of the Palm Beach school district's website.) The key, though, is to go beyond merely assessing. Do something with the information!
  • Ask students to identify what they do well and what they need to improve on. If possible, have them cite examples or provide previous work as evidence.
  • Toward the end of the unit, ask students to identify the grade they think they can earn on the test. Give them some time--one day, one week, you decide--to fill in the gaps in their learning.
  • Share your successes with your colleagues.

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