Thursday, July 15, 2010

Motivating Learners through Classroom Assessment

According to Paul Dix, if we spend less time spoon-feeding students and more time with them discussing learning this will enhance greater motivation.

Autonomous Learning
Promoting and embedding autonomous learning can lead to substantial change in the quality of classroom assessment.
With some simple changes to our daily routine we can create conditions for autonomous learning and for classroom assessment to thrive.
Having autonomy in our lives makes us feel empowered, motivated and in control of decision-making. Orders imposed upon us on the other hand can lead to de-motivation.

Teaching to test also does not foster autonomy. Tests stifle the curriculum and restrict curriculum and differentiation putting young children off learning. The pressure that teachers are under to deliver large amounts of content in short time frames, slow the assessment process.

Can we help students become autonomous learners with such an imperfect system? Paul Dix confirms that with skillful teaching we can work within these limitations to create classrooms where students will keenly accept responsibility, taking more control.

Here is how:
· Give students responsibility for seemingly unimportant tasks as fetching equipment, tidying up and leading discussions. The idea is to designate tasks to the students that they are capable of achieving with a bonus of giving the teacher more time for teaching. The child feels trusted and they will take more ownership also meaning less behavior management time.
· Give students opportunity to voice their opinions. This reinforces the autonomy you are building with your students. Questions we need to ask focus on what we want to know from the students.

How do we get students opinions? Paul Dix mentions amongst others: Students councils, peer mentoring, student surgeries and student interview panels.

Self Assessment- an Essential Component.

Autonomous learners have been taught to self assess. Successful self- assessment involves teaching the students the skills of productive self-reflection avoiding the pitfalls of consistently reflecting on the negative aspect of their work. Teaching the students to self assess is equipping them with skills that successful learners employ everyday. This requires encouraging the students to spend time reflecting on their own:
· understanding
· performance
· achievement
· future

The skill of self-reliance focusing on their own progress is preparing them for the adult world. Such skilled practice needs to include established rituals that produce honest, natural and reflective thought.
Students can write down questions that help them to analyze their progress for learning. Dix fives examples for developing skill for self-reflection that can be obtained through for example prayer, and an art called Naikam. ‘Balanced self-reflection is at the heart of good mental health '.

Hopkins also discusses and therefore strengthens the argument for self-assessment. He emphasizes that teachers need to develop a sound understanding of subject progression so that they can help pupils to understand what and why they are trying to learn, and what their next steps are. They need to asses their own progress and help their peers as well as recognizing the standards they are aiming for to strive for personal excellence.

Teachers also need to understand how their pupils learn so that they can help them to reflect, develop learning strategies and engage in high-quality classroom conversations with the teacher, other adults and their peers. This will help them develop as independent learners.

Interesting data from research conducted on eight education systems concluded that formative assessment is one of the most useful strategies in improving student performance.