Empowering the learner

From David Townsend, Pamela Adams, and Robert White in Successful Assessment for Learning Projects from AISI Cycle 3:

We offered students exemplars of good work to help them establish criteria and to participate in the development of rubrics. We used strategies, such as graphic organizers, structured questioning, journals, portfolios, self-assessment, cooperative learning, learning conferences and increased communication with parents, to make sure students had every opportunity to produce their best work. We gave them descriptive feedback tied to learner outcomes and we made it clear that there would be no zeroes, but there would be second chances. What do you think happened? Students, teachers and parents had a well-deserved feeling of accomplishment and there was a measurable growth in the achievement of learner outcomes.

What a powerful statement against heavy summative style assessment! Self-assessment and guided learning leads to student growth? More, please! One of the key statements I pulled from this is that descriptive feedback from the instructor needs to be tied to learner outcomes, not the systems outcomes or the teacher’s outcomes. This is about empowering the learner to take control of their own education.

The need for self-assessment in language learning

David Gardner in his article Self-assessment for autonomous language learners:

It should be clear that self-assessment is not about leaving students to fend for themselves. It is about teachers creating opportunities for students to make responsible choices which individualise assessments to their own needs.

There is a lot packed into that statement. I know instructors who believe that having students become more autonomous means leaving them alone, allowing them to work things out no their own. This should never be the case. Students are responsible for setting goals and objectives, but only in consultation with their peers and teacher. Students don’t always know that they need, that is why we are there as teachers to nudge them and gently guide them. Giving students choices and allowing them to find the best route is a simple way to be less intrusive while still being supportive. This allows them to make ‘responsible choices’ that help motivate them intrinsincly. Once a student becomes self-motivated, it doesn’t take much for them to grow. We plant the seed, they water and nurture it until it grows.