Move students from on task to in task with formative activities

Move students from on task to in task with formative activities

Joel Serena - Client Growth Manager - Edrolo

Here is a fun fact that will blow you away: teachers make over 1500 decisions and assessments every single day (Mockler, 2023). And it’s not just restricted to formative assessments of students' knowledge, understanding, and skills in the cognitive realm. It encapsulates the holistic aspects of social, emotional, and physical wellbeing for every student. Notwithstanding the entirety of the hidden curriculum! 

As a teacher consider this - that point in the lesson where you hinge into a different direction? Assessment. Giving feedback on student progress? Assessment. On yard duty and think that handball game is getting a bit too competitive? Assessment. Call a student out for cutting in on the canteen line? Assessment. With that many assessments, no wonder why we are terribly exhausted every day. 

Redirecting the decisions 

But ever thought why is it always on us to make these judgements and assessments for learning? Shouldn’t students play a more active role as learners? Absolutely they should. To do that, we can help shift some of the teacher-centric assessment for learning into more student-centric assessment as learning (Tomlinson, 2008), to help with that fatigue. 

The difference between for and as is key: assessment as learning moves students from a transactional learner who is on task (sounds like ‘Here is my work; what mark did I get; tell me where I am at and what to do next?’), to metacognitive learners who are in task (sounds like ‘Here is my work, this is what I think my result is, why I think that, here is how I’ve applied my own feedback, where I need to go and how I will get there’). Then students have the tools and equipment to do this, they take ownership of their own learning and take that decision fatigue off of you as the teacher.  

Strategies to empower students to lead their learning

Two great strategies to use to empower students to be assessors of their own learning are dialectic questioning and self and peer assessment.

1. Dialectic questioning

Dialectic questioning empathises the importance of robust questioning to generate robust learning - and it’s tried and tested. It was invented by Socrates (hence it's also called the Socratic method). Some simple ideas to try:

Up the modality of questions, ask follow ups

  • By moving from lower order factual and closed questions (e.g. What), to higher order open ended and interpretive questions (e.g. Why, How, To what extent, What if, Would that be the same), we activate deeper, more provocative thinking. 
  • Interrogate students’ answers by asking follow-ups of the student or the class. Why do you think that? Does anyone else agree? What if? How do you know?
  • This links in really well with retrieval practice (see our previous blog post on this here).

Increase thinking time 

  • On average, we wait 2-3 seconds after asking a question before answering it ourselves (Black, 2013 ). This means responses are rushed and lower order, as opposed to higher order and analytical.
  • By waiting longer after you ask a question, it allows students to think deeper and provides time for us as the teacher, to gauge how the concept is landing. 

It's not always on the teacher to ask questions - delegate that to the students 

  • For example, retrieval practice, think pair share, research tasks, silent discussions, group discussion, class debates, class trial, 5W’s, question walls, hot seating, even get students to write their own questions and marking rubrics. 

How to use Edrolo for dialectic questions

This is easy! Assign activities to students as pre learning and use class time for these dialectics. Every course has hundreds of syllabus/curriculum-aligned questions based on previous exams and assessments. Use these to model questioning or to move students from on task to in task by debating or interrogating responses and modelling what success looks like. 

2. Self and peer assessment

Self and peer assessment involves students evaluating and providing feedback on each other’s work. It helps reduce the marking load for you as the teacher, increases student capacity, helps students become resilient, self-directed, and self-regulated, and integrates well with learning intentions and success criteria, goal setting, and dialectics. In fact, having feedback come from peers means it will be written in a way students understand, using language they know. 

Some simple lesson ideas:

Model it by first unpacking an exemplar

  • A good exemplar (we call them WAGOLL - What A Good One Looks Like) is worth its weight in gold. It allows students to visualise what each aspect of the marking guide or success criteria looks like. Unpack the criteria and WAGOLL, show students by underlining, highlighting, and annotating where a response meets that criteria. Get into the weeds of the response either explicitly or as a class. This should be very much discussional. Need a WAGOLL? We have hundreds ready to go for every course.

Make it student-centric

  • Give students an activity, the marking criteria, and a WAGOL,L and turn the marking process into a collaborative activity. You can lead (not dictate) the collaboration with guiding questions. Give students time to answer the question and an opportunity to provide feedback on each other’s work verbally, in writing, or as a gallery walk with post-it notes.

Return to sender

  • When students submit their work, ask them if they’ve checked the WAGOLL criteria, marked it themselves, and applied their own feedback first. Then ask them if they’ve shown a friend.

Use routines

  • Start this routine early on, it takes time to teach them how to be markers, and encourage them to share their work with their peers. 

How to use Edrolo for self and peer assessment 

We have exemplars with marking guidelines, and presenters unpacking these, ready to go for each syllabus or curriculum dot point - they’re called assessments and progress checks - and you can click through to submissions to see them. These can be projected onto the board instantly to workshop in class. 

Set the assessments, topic and progress tests regularly: either in class or at home, and encourage students to use the video solutions, marking criteria and exemplars to mark their work individually or in small groups. Students can provide feedback on each other’s work verbally, in writing, or as a gallery walk with post it notes. You can then mark their marking, not their work!

You can also set Edrolo activities as pre-learning and use the data dashboards to facilitate Kagan Seating and Critical Friends:

Kagan seating is grouped seating based on abilities. Organise your lesson seating plan in a way that each student is seated next to a student who is at a slightly lower level and also a student that is at a slightly higher level. This creates good opportunities for collaboration and positive development. The data dash can help to inform these groupings. With their face partner or shoulder partner students can:

  • Turn and Talk
  • Think, Pair, Share
  • Predict, Observe, Explain
  • Annotate a diagram/image in a pair
  • Find the errors in an exam response answer 
  • Determine the marks break down in a pair

Critical friends seating: Use data to pair students with a critical friend for peer feedback. As a general rule, critical friends should not be too far apart in their learning. You can also make critical friend triads. The TAG protocol is a good way to structure how students interact: T - Tell something you like, A- Ask a question, G - Give a Suggestion.

Get access to hundreds of exemplars, questions, and other activities to easily try out these strategies. Get in touch with us here.

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