Learner, Know Yourself, Know Your Strengths, Know Your Weaknesses

The language of assessment can be tricky. We have assessment for, of, and as, learning, and depending on where you learn or work, you might also have formative and summative assessment thrown in. Language can be tricky, so it is good to get to the heart of what really matters.

This graphic from Lorna Earl points to how we spend most of our time in the process of learning itself; the end point of a unit or sequence of learning is only the very top and tip of the pyramid.

P. 32 in Earl’s book Assessment As Learning

The base of the pyramid is the monitoring, reflecting and thinking that all learners do, as they learn. It is a continuous process of learners thinking about their own learning, setting goals, using feedback, and reflecting on their own learning.

I like to think of assessment as learning can be thought of as the process of learning itself. There is no learning without reflecting on new knowledge and skills, and fitting them in to our current schema or set of beliefs about the world and the things in it.

As a learner, I act. When I take a course and am graded for my work, I am acted upon. I want a world for my children where they have greater agency over what and how they learn.

“Having metacognition means that students “know what to do when they don’t know what to do.”
-Guy Claxton

“Thinking about your own thinking” is probably a good enough definition of this word, outside of the realm of cognitive science.

Metacognition is a fraught and thorny word, and not to be deployed carelessly, but for students-it probably means actively thinking about and monitoring their own thinking. We should have some idea about what know, and what we still need to find out, as we learn about a topic. The learning process is one of constantly reflecting on, making decisions about, and improving our own learning.

Learners should be thinking about and judging their own work quality as they go. As Lorna Earl says, “ self assessment is at the heart of the matter. ”

An ideal learning environment is one where both teachers and students seek answers to these questions:

“Where am I going?”
“How am I going?”
“Where to next?”
(Hattie and Timperley’s words)

Students can be encouraged and taught to be their own best assessors. They need to develop strategies for what to do when they are stuck, at a dead end or caught in a corner with something they are learning.

Reflection and metacognition are perhaps one and the same. Starr Stackstein (Starr Sackstein) has written a great and informative little book on the topic of reflection and student self-assesment.

She implores us:

“don’t treat reflection as an ‘add on’.”

We are thinking beings, and we are reflective beings. Here are a few tips and ideas about reflection:

-explicitly teach it to kids. Encourage and help them to reflect often.

-teach students to question everything.

-don’t make it an add-on. Make it a regular part of your routine.

-ask kids to share their reflections

-use a variety of reflection tools like Google forms, Exit Slips, conferencing.

-be reflective yourself. Model being a reflective being. Humans are born to think.

Works Cited:

Claxton, G. Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind.

Earl, Lorna. Assessment As Learning: Using classroom assessment to maximize student learning.

Hattie, J. & Timperley, H. “The Power of Feedback.” (in Review of Educational Research. 77 (1), 81–112.)

Stackstein, Starr. Teaching Students to Self-Assess.