This course was different to what I was originally expecting, and a very rich learning experience. I was originally expecting this course to focus on standards and assessing to standards, say, with a standards-based (exceeds/at standard/approaching/below) rubric. However the content of this course was much richer than this. I have primarily focused on the importance of cultivating a growth mindset in students, and the linked importance of providing rich and varied formative, peer, and self-assessment opportunities for students.
Before this course, in the 2015-2016 school year, I was able to weave in learning expectations regularly, although only on a wide scale. For the first time ever, students and I focused on their written and oral proficiency, instead of looking at what they could not do grammatically. We spent a lot of time as a class discussing proficiency learning goals and strategies for how to get there. The proficiency benchmarks were hung on our classroom wall and we frequently referenced them in students’ oral and written work. We also referenced the proficiency scales when discussing what work at different levels looked or sounded like. Students were asked to reflect on their learning in relation to the proficiency scales, and think about next steps a few times throughout the year. However, I feel like much of this was done informally and inconsistently, and I executed formative assessment without a deep understanding of varied practices and without deep intentionality.
Wiliam suggests four stages to embedding formative assessemnt ito our work with fidelity:
- Clarifying and Sharing Learning Intentions and Success Criteria
- Eliciting Evidence of Learning
- Providing feedback (formative assessment)
- Peer and self-assessment
Wiliam suggests a variety of practical formative assessment strategies, and I was happy to see that I already implement many of them in my current practice, such as all student response systems such as mini-whiteboards, exit passes, discussion questions in randomly selected small groups, open-ended questions, hot seat questioning, etc. However, I realize that I need to improve my quality of questioning. As Wiliam states on page 79 “only 8 percent of the questions asked by teachers required the students to analyze, to make inferences, or to generalize…less than 10 percent of the questions that were asked by teachers in these classrooms actually caused any new learning.” This means focusing on open-ended, engaging questions that cause students to think.
In this course we worked to construct a unit learning progression considering standards, key learning targets and meaningful formative assessments that will be conducted along the way. Mine can be found below:
In addition to the learning progression, I researched in depth specific strategies to teach students to employ a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset in order to elicit deeper engagement and foster a stronger work ethic in students and thus improve student achievement. This was a very meaningful project for me, as I learned about the incredible power mindset can have in all aspects of our life and how to explicitly teach students about growing their brain and embracing challenge as exciting and not something to avoid. I will be both explicitly teaching students about mindset at the beginning of the year moving forward, as well as integrating growth mindset questions strategies, wait time, and reflective processes into my daily classroom practice. Espousing a growth mindset also requires us as teachers to actually recognize that all students can achieve (Dweck 2006). This may sound basic to some, but I have heard teachers strongly disagree with this statement, especially regarding World Language study. There is a current of belief that some students aren’t mature enough to study a world language and should wait or waive the requirement all together. However, recognizing that students can change and grow calls us to change our own mindsets and our classroom culture to use questioning strategies that ask students to justify their thinking, recognize, reflect upon, and praise the process, critique others and receive critiques as an opportunity to improve and learn, and to promote the belief that all students can improve and achieve.
Equally important, I am looking forward to going back to JHS and sharing my new learning, especially regarding mindset, with my colleagues. I have found a variety of resources that provide additional detail about changing one’s own mindset and others, and it is an exciting topic that has high impact and I know my colleagues will be interested in the information. By sharing my resources I can begin to plant the seed to further collaboration around the topic in the future.
In the end, although not content specific, this course taught me many fundamental teaching philosophies and practices that I feel will make a huge impact on my students’ overall experience in my classroom moving forward. I now feel like I have the knowledge regarding formative assessment and mindset and the research to back it up and I am really excited to see where this added intentionality takes my students and me this next year!
Some valuable resources that I have discovered throughout this course:
The Power of belief — mindset and success | Eduardo Briceno | TEDxManhattanBeach
Carol Dweck: The power of believing that you can improve
Downey, J. A. (2014). Indispensable Insight: Children’s Perspectives on Factors and Mechanisms That Promote Educational Resilience. Canadian Journal of Education, 31(1), 46-72.
Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.
Dweck, C. S. (2007, October). The Perils and Promises of Praise. Early Intervention at Every Age, 65(2), 34-39.
Montoy-Wilson, M. (n.d.). Encouraging Students to Persist Through Challenges. Retrieved August 06, 2016, from https://www.teachingchannel.org/
Seven Common Growth Mindset Scenarios and Responses [PDF]. (2016, January 16). MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, from mindsetkit.org
Stewart, C. (n.d.). Praising the Process. Retrieved August 06, 2016, from https://www.teachingchannel.org/
With Math I Can – Growth Mindset Tools. (n.d.). Retrieved August 07, 2016, from https://www.amazon.com/gp/withmathican