M-CESC Teaching & Learning

October Focus: Formative Instructional Practices

Nearing the End of the 1st Quarter!

It is hard to believe that the first 9 weeks is wrapping up. We are sure that this first quarter has been filled with learning about your student and their abilities, but who is doing a majority of the work - you or the kids?

In a May 8, 2019, blog by Shelley Wright, she asks, “Why do we own the learning and not our students?” The idea of student ownership directly aligns with the 7 strategies of formative instructional practices, which require students to be able to answer where they are going, where they are now, and how they’re going to get there.

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Jan Chappuis (2009) identifies the strategies that fit within each question:

Where am I going?

Strategy 1: Provide clear learning targets to students. This requires teachers to change state standards into student-friendly language. Break these standards into pieces that students can understand and accomplish. Click here to learn how to write student-friendly learning targets.

Strategy 2: Provide strong and weak examples of student work. Students need to know what high-quality work looks like and what does not meet the target. Ask students to look at the examples provided by ODE in the released tests, and have them score those based upon the given rubrics. Students are more critical of others’ work, so giving them strong and weak examples of submitted work gives them practice before comparing their own assignment to the expectations of a rubric.

Where am I now?

Strategy 3: Provide descriptive feedback in a timely manner. Students need to receive feedback as soon as possible, but it should not be in the form of a letter grade - it should provide students details on where they are in terms of meeting the learning target. Here are a list of 20 different ways to provide feedback.

Strategy 4: Students need to be able to take your feedback and set personal goals towards meeting the established learning target. Goal-setting is challenging for adults, and you’re being asked to help students set goals, so you may have to take some time to teach them what goals are and how to create them. Minds in Bloom blogger, Rachel Lynette, has created a free goal setting sheet for students, which is available here.

How can I close the gap?

Strategy 5: Lessons should be created based upon a single learning goal. Time is of the essence in education. I am sure we have all attempted a lesson that addressed multiple standards. While it was challenging to design and execute, we looked forward to reaping the benefits of our labor only to have it end up overwhelming to the students. It is okay to break a standard in smaller pieces and spend several days addressing a single topic. When assessment information identifies a need, instruction can be adjusted to target the need. In this strategy, we can scaffold the learning by narrowing the focus of the lesson. The goal is student mastery - this will be easier to achieve in smaller steps rather than a large leap.

Strategy 6: Teach students to revise. This is where chunking lessons into attainable targets is helpful. When students can practice a single concept, the learning becomes manageable - leaving students far less overwhelmed and far from defeated. While the words editing and revising are often used interchangeably, they are two distinct practices. During editing, you correct spelling, grammar, punctuation and sentence structure. During revision, you add new thoughts, clarify existing thoughts, choose more descriptive words, improve overall understanding of ideas presented, add more detail, and eliminate unnecessary elements.

Strategy 7: Students should self-reflect and keep track of their learning. Portfolios are a great way for students to look back at their personal growth throughout a unit of study or even a school year. While the contents of this folder were used in a 5th grade math classroom, these could be adapted to fit your current setting.