mardi 29 mars 2011

Learning Target Alignment - Volante

The second of the principles from Volante's document is that of learning targets. As obvious as this one should be, we often fall short of communicating the "why" and the "how" of an assignment to our students. We know what we want them to do, but failure to communicate this results in lack of understanding, lack of confidence, and feeling of inadequacy from the student. Often students fail in our eyes by no fault of their own. Papers are marked up and when they get them back, students finally understand what we wanted in the first place, at which point it is too late.

OK, so how do we set things up so that we all gain? We have filtered the essential learning outcomes from the curriculum guides mandated by the province and have created a comprehensive cintinuum that flows from grade 5 to grade 8. Step one complete. The problem is we need to realize there are more steps after this one.

Damian Cooper talked about tiered assessment, a way of allowing all students to reach their potential by setting them up in a way where they have assignment expectations laid out in the detail needed for various levels of independence. The worries I have about handing out the same assignment guideline to all my students is that my less-motivated (or less capable) students do not attain the expected results because they need a more step by step approach. They need to be told exactly what to do - there can be no room for doubt if they are to succeed. The same is true for the very strong students who are selling themselves short by working to the guidelines - instead of to their potential. They need the freedom to allow their work to take them in new and unexpected directions - regardless of what I may initially have had in mind.

As meticulously guided students become more confident and interested in the inquiry process and their own ideas, they graduate to the middle tier of assignment criteria and are less dependant on being told how to think and organize their work.

If I understand the learning target alignment correctly, I believe it means to align what needs to be done with the current level of achievement of each student to be sure students are guided to the required extent. The student's comfort level is not fixed as they graduate to the next level when they are ready. Every student receives the required teaching but how far they go with it depends on their level of readiness, which grows with the student.

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