Much of a successful new school year is dependent on the relationships you build with your students and the ways you engage them in the learning process. Assessment in the service of learning is one of the best vehicles for building relationships and engaging learners. What does this look like in the first days of school? Here are my TOP THREE suggestions:
- Involve students in shaping the learning community of the classroom. For example, “What is important so this is a class where we can all learn and grow together?” List their ideas. Accept all ideas. It shows respect and that student’s opinions, no matter how different they are from yours, are valued. This is the first step to co-constructing criteria. I suggest you leave this as a list for the first week or two. Periodically ask students what else is important so this is a class where we can all learn and grow together. As Stephen Covey suggests, this is a powerful way to “Seek to understand before seeking to be understood.” It is so much more powerful than a teacher posting ‘Class Rules’ that some students translate as, ‘It’s my way or you’re out.’ Now students can be involved as they self-monitor their contributions to the classroom community.
- Invite students to show you HOW they are smart. Building on Howard Gardner’s work, have students identify their expertise – in or out of school. This is a unique kind of baseline data that helps students help you to better understand how they might show proof of learning in your class. Some teachers have students post mini “Expert Sheets”. Students brainstorm different kinds of expertise like: Mathematics, long boarders, video gaming, running, and so on… it can be about in or out of school. Each kind of expertise becomes a title on a letter-sized piece of paper. Once all the ‘expert sheets’ are completed have students post them around the room. Then, ask students to sign up for all the kind of expertise they currently have. Then, these sheets can act as a “go to” place when people need help. Now students can be involved as they find ways to prove to you that they are learning.
- Ask students to describe the best class and the best teacher they have ever had (no names please). This can be done individually in a journal or email to you. Or, it can be a brainstormed list that will be posted in the classroom. This helps you understand what students’ value and appreciate. It will also help when you model self-assessment. You can go to the lists and explain to the students what you think two of your strengths are and what evidence you have. Then you can talk about one thing you are working on to become a better teacher. Do this periodically so students understand that you also do what you are asking them to do. Now you have begun to set students up to communicate to you their ongoing learning strengths and challenges. This can save you time while having students more engaged and learning.
Over the coming weeks I will share more ways you can have students working harder than you are by using assessment in the service of learning.