Use Self-Reflection to Empower Learners
By Paul Emerich France
Differentiation and personalization can be a shared responsibility between learners and teachers. In fact, when we engage students in the process of personalizing their own learning, it becomes more sustainable for teachers. In order to make learners partners in personalization, we must build their agency and teach them how to make productive choices. We can’t do this without cultivating a conscious knowledge of self within learners. Self-reflection can help with this.
When fostering self-reflection, consider both formal and informal methods for self-reflection, relying on a simple framework:
- What worked today?
- What didn’t work?
- What will you do tomorrow?
You might consider doing written reflections on occasion, especially after an assessment. These questions can also be used at the end of learning blocks, prompting learners to reflect with peers and share their reflections with the group. These reflection prompts help teachers meet learners where they are because they empower learners to become partners in meeting their own needs. By engaging in this process of reflection repetitively over time, self-reflection becomes a natural part of what learners do in a classroom, building a transferable skill for self-directed learning that will hopefully sustain learning in the long run. It’s more sustainable for teachers, too.
Collaborate With Colleagues and Get to Know Students
By Kurtis and Lorna Hewson
Collaboration is integral to the well-being of staff and a successful support network for the learning community. If we intend to meet the needs of every child, particularly in the upcoming years where we will see significant gaps for our students due to interrupted learning, we need to rely on our teams to work together to generate as many ideas as possible to support as many students as possible.
We recommend a process used in collaborative team meetings in which a teacher shares a concern for a student, we arrive at a key issue the student is experiencing, and identify other students with a similar concern. This is followed by a brainstorming session with all team members contributing, which results in multiple strategies shared and actions being designated for the students who were identified. We need to lean into each other through our teams!
We also must resist the urge to rush in our approach to students. We may feel a sense of urgency to address the gaps in student learning that have resulted from the last two years of disrupted learning. We may have a desire to teach as much as possible to as many as possible in the shortest amount of time in order to catch students up. When we examine the variance in learner profiles, we realize that this quick whole group method will be insufficient. Take time to know and understand your learners, for example by building a student profile by connecting with previous teachers. This plethora of information will create the opportunity to design programming that will allow students to succeed.
In essence, we need to ‘go slow to go fast’! Take the time to understand the current circumstances for each student and to deepen and solidify your collaborative practices so you might ‘lean in’ and experience success for all.
For English Language Learners, Identify Standards and Use Digital Portfolios
By Heather Rubin
All teachers will need to address a very wide range of skills and needs in our classrooms this year. This range can be even wider for our English language learners, who come with various levels of English language proficiency and distinct academic histories. Two strategies to meet this challenge are prioritizing learning standards and incorporating digital portfolios for student assessment. These two strategies will help teachers provide all students, including linguistically and culturally diverse learners, with targeted, differentiated instruction that meets students where they are while also allowing students a voice and choice in how they demonstrate mastery.
- Identify Priority Learning Standards
Learning standards drive all instruction. In order to address disruptions in learning and meet students where they are, we need to eliminate time-consuming activities that are not related to priority standards. First identify which standards should be prioritized and which standards support those priorities. Unpack the priority standards and identify the academic and linguistic demands. Ask yourself: Which standards indicate readiness for the next level of learning? Prioritize the standards that are more comprehensive and/or rigorous. Adjust your curriculum to focus on the priority standards that you and your colleagues have identified together.
- Use Digital Portfolios to Assess Student Mastery
Student work should be maintained in a digital portfolio. This will empower students to demonstrate growth over time as they meet their learning targets. Incorporate digital platforms such as Seesaw, Flipgrid, Google Classroom, or Wakelet and ask students to reflect on their best work and choose which artifacts will fulfill predetermined standards-based benchmarks. Use rubrics that give students voice and choice as they build their own portfolio. This develops critical thinking and taps into students’ funds of knowledge.
One last suggestion: Throughout the school year ask yourself: What experiences are students bringing to class? How can I help students make connections between what they already know and what they are learning?