My son has an amazing basketball coach. He is friendly and kind and nurtures them through practices to be their very best. What has set him apart from other coaches we have worked with in the past is his reflective nature. He spends a lot of time working with the team, not just running drills. He asks the team to reflect on what they already do well and what they can do to keep improving. He has them set realistic goals for themselves and then works with them to get “one percent better” each practice. Each practice exemplifies the art of assessment and feedback.

Teaching mirrors this same process. Students are involved in their own learning, assessing their strengths and what they find challenging. Assessment for learning is a chance to set clear learning goals and to actively work toward achieving them. Giving students the chance to think and articulate their needs and goals helps them to become more invested in their learning. Providing timely, explicit feedback and coaching for improvement helps students to understand how to move toward their learning goal. It also builds confidence when they succeed!

As a beginning teacher, I often thought of assessment for and as learning through the lens of project based learning assignments. A culminating project in science, for example, that would span several weeks would involve a certain intensity around student conferencing, check-ins, suggestions, reviewing success criteria, etc. I still think this can be a valuable place for assessment and learning; however I now think of assessment as an on-going part of our day and not limited to a project or single activity.

I always love to provide space for students to share, explore, and write ideas in their journals. At the beginning of the year, I just let them write; sometimes a journal prompt or sometimes free choice writing. When I look at their writing, I try to determine what they need as a few next steps. Perhaps this would be full sentences, grammar, expanding ideas, or something else entirely. Being clear with students through mini-lessons on what they needed to focus on helped to break down the steps for success, but also allowed us to build individual editing checklists in small groups. It also kept them involved in their self-editing process; knowing what to look for and work on.

Knowing how to accept feedback can be a lesson on it’s own! I think a lot about when I was a student. I felt like getting ‘feedback’ was just another way for the teacher to point out all the things I did wrong and needed to ‘fix’. Taking the time to build trust with students can help to make assessment and feedback to feel more collaborative. We both have the same goal and we will work on it together! I always try to convey this message to students about why conferencing and asking for feedback is so important.

It seems a lot less intimidating to think about teaching and learning as a collaborative effort. We’re partners in this learning journey. I learn a lot about becoming a better teacher from the students in my class and I hope they learn a little bit from me too. We are both striving to become that one percent better each day.


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