A previous blog, “Using Formative Assessment to Create Active Learners,” listed five key practices that teachers can use to help students learn to make use of their own formative assessment data. Here, I’ll discuss the second of those practices:
Revisiting learning targets together throughout a lesson.
To involve students fully in the formative assessment process, students need to understand the goal of their learning for a lesson. Sharing the learning target at the start of the lesson (Practice #1) is an important starting place, but though necessary, it’s not sufficient; it’s important to revisit the learning target at least once together during the lesson. To illustrate what this looks like, let’s use the following learning target.
What I will learn: Having different representations of data, such as a table or a graph, allows you to see different things about the data.
How I will know I’ve learned this:
- I can create a table using data.
- I can create a graph using the same data.
- I can explain how each representation helps me see different things about the data.
Here are some ways you can revisit the learning target to build students’ learning:
- Revisit during the lesson to re-establish a focus on the important learning.
It’s easy for students to think that mastering the skill is the sole purpose of the lesson, rather than to understand a mathematics idea. So after students do an initial activity, you can revisit to remind students of the key learning for the lesson.
“We’ve just worked on creating a table and a graph from some data. So let’s pause and look back at our learning target. The important idea to learn today is that having different representations of data allows you to see different things about the data. So as we continue, be thinking about what you can tell about the data from your table, and what you can tell about the data from your graph.”
- Revisit during the lesson to clarify the important learning.
Even though you introduce the learning target at the start of the lesson, students may not begin to really understand what it means until further into the lesson. You can revisit to clarify the important learning.
“Now that you’ve had a chance to make your table and your graph, let’s talk for a moment about what it means to ‘see different things about the data.’”
- Revisit during or at the end of the lesson to give students an opportunity to consolidate their learning.
Given the time pressures of the classroom, students may have few opportunities to pause and mentally “catch their breath” by summarizing what they understand so far. Revisiting the learning target can give students a chance to do so.
“Remember that our learning target is about what you can tell about the data from looking at each type of representation. Turn to your partner and talk for a moment about one thing you can tell easily about the data from a table, and one thing you can tell easily from a graph.”
- Revisit during or at the end of the lesson to provide feedback to the whole class about their learning.
As students work on lesson activities, a teacher can often see whether the class is collectively heading in the right direction or not. Revisiting the learning target involve giving feedback to the whole class feedback on how their learning is progressing.
“I’m seeing that most of you are able to create a table and a graph (indicating the first two success criteria), but in your conversations with your partner, I’m hearing a lot of confusion about what different things to look for in the data (indicating the third). So we’re going to focus on that for the second half of our lesson.”
A teacher may follow this revisiting with gathering further evidence of students’ thinking.
In each case, the revisit of the learning target helps solidify its meaning for students, and can serve different purposes in moving students’ learning forward. The revisiting of the learning target serves at least as important a role (maybe more!) as the initial introduction of it.
Susan Janssen Creighton has worked in mathematics education for 30 years, both in schools and at EDC, where her work has focused largely on K–12 mathematics curriculum development and mathematics teacher professional development. Currently, her work focuses on helping mathematics teachers adopt and successfully implement formative assessment practices, and on supporting teachers’ understanding and use of the CCSS Standards for Mathematical Practice. She is a co-author of Bringing Math Students Into the Formative Assessment Equation.