Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Power of Students Tracking Their Own Progress

I recently read an interesting article by Robert Marzano in the December edition of Educational Leadership ( about the influence on student learning when kids are tracking/charting their own performance over time on in-class assessments.
One of the things that Marzano mentions is that for it to be truly effective, the assessments need to measure the students' performance on the same learning objective over time.  If one assessment measured performance on reducing fractions to lowest terms, for example, and the next assessment measured performance on converting decimals to percents, those are not linearly comparable.  Many other practical suggestions resulting from his research are shared as well.
As an old math teacher, I can think of many ways to make use of this in math, but my thinking immediately took me in the direction of language arts.  Reading comprehension and/or performance on different domains that make up writing skills are one area where I think it is a natural fit to involve students in tracking their own progress as Marzano recommends.  Most of our schools have standardized reading and writing assessments that are given to students, measuring a specific set of skills, that may be perfect for this sort of use. It may even be possible to track progess over time and give students a long-term sense of their growth over time.
Plus, as an old math teacher, it would give kids more opportunities to make charts, read charts, etc. outside of my classes....
I'm think the kind of feedback students get after taking standardized assessments is inconsistent. It depends on the teacher, the time available, etc., but it is important to get them the feedback. My children will come home and tell me when they have written one of the schools standardized tests, but when I ask them how they did or what they learned from their writing, they mention that sometimes they get a copy back with feedback and sometimes they don't.  Please know I am not criticizing teachers at all, but trying to illustrate the importance of raising the meaning of the assessment for the students as well as the teachers. Great learning occurs for the teachers in analyzing assessment results, but by engaging students in the sort of activity Marzano describes it may help create deeper learning for students as well.
Just a thought.  I hope you get a chance to take a look at Marzano's research and share any comments you may have!

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