Reflecting for Learning

Ramsey Musallam has great ideas about using Google Forms to assess a student's understanding of a video after they watched it. I immediately began using his forms as a model to assess whether or not my students grasped the concept. It worked great, and I got a lot of valuable data in the process.

Last year, I did the same thing, but with a slightly different twist: I asked students to rate their comfort with a particular concept on a 1-4 scale. Then, they had to explain why they felt that way and what they could show me to prove their level of understanding. I did this for a couple reasons. One, I could target students that felt uncomfortable or shaky without calling them out in the front of class. Two, it totally changed the grading discussion in class.

Rather than assigning grades, I began discussing grades with my students. They would come with their assessment, and then I would have a very specific discussion with them about why they felt the way they did. More often than not, if they were able to explain their reasoning, show some evidence, and give a plan for improvement or extension, their assessment went right into the grade book. They didn't feel like I was being unfair, and they knew the expectations for meaningful assessment would be their own.

First, I created a simple Google form. If you're doing this for the first time, be sure to include a space for their last name and class hour for sorting purposes. I forgot class hour once, and it was a bear to work through.

Second, keep your ranking system on an even (2,4,6 etc) scale. In odd scales, kids tend to rank themselves in the middle. Sometimes this is because they don't want to grade themselves too high or too hard. I don't feel like I got 100% honest assessments that way. An even scale forces them to choose on the higher or lower end.

Third, the form doesn't do everything. You need to be sure to talk with your students as often as you least three times a week. Otherwise, they'll begin taking advantage of the system because they figure you won't be checking too often. It'll save yourself some trouble.

Fourth, encourage them to set improvement plans and then reassess for a higher grade when they feel ready. It's up to you if you want to wait for a quiz or other check, but I encourage them to reevaluate their learning frequently.

This year, I'm going to try and include the blogging process more. I might add a box for them to paste a longer, weekly reflection of their learning on their blogs.

The most important thing is to promote reflection in learning at every stage. Kids are trained from year one in school that learning happens in discrete little chunks that begin with something fun and end with a test. We need to work hard to change that mindset, and one way to do that is through promoting a regular self-evaluation like this one. It isn't perfect, but it has worked well for me in the past and I'm hoping that you can take something away from this as well.

If you have another way to check student learning through reflection, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

6 thoughts on “Reflecting for Learning

  1. Dear Mr. Bennett,

    I think it was a great idea to have your students’ grade
    themselves. This not only makes them rethink about what they had just learned,
    but also helps them discuss what is giving them difficulty. By labeling “Ok
    this is what I’m having issues on” or “Oh I understand this”, it helps not only
    us as the teachers, but the students to go back and ask questions and see if
    there is a different way to learn it, so they do understand.

    This level of grading is exactly what my EDM 310 teacher Dr.
    Strange does. He states, “It is up to you to evaluate and think how you have
    done”. I believe this helps me to work harder because I am my harshest critic.
    I break things down to a tee and make sure every I is dotted and T is crossed.
    I believe students do this as well.

    It’s kind of funny you mentioning that they go for the
    middle number, because I use to do this all the time. I never thought I did
    well enough to get the high grade, but not low enough to fail. Going with even
    numbers makes them think back to if they really did as well as they thought.

    You have made very valid points. Losing track of your
    students may be a great way to have them lose track of you. By them reevaluating themselves, they make
    the plans for how to make their work better, not the teacher. Ergo this helps
    them see what they are making mistakes on, what they are doing well on, and
    what they should keep doing.

    I believe you are correct in students have a set “mindset”
    from day one. Students get excited about the activity, but then tend to fall
    off because they are either nervous or scared about the test. We want the
    students to have fun all the time, while they are also learning. I think that
    having a reflection is great way to go we just need to keep improving on that,
    so our students can keep improving on them.

    I loved your blog post it actually taught me more how to
    utilize applications on Google. Also, that we need to loosen the reigns on
    students because they might be better by helping themselves and their peers,
    then us telling them what is wrong. It makes them have the initiative and the
    drive to do better.

    • Thanks for your comment. I’m always happy to get thoughts from ED310 folks and I’m glad the post made you think. I hope that as you move into student teaching and ultimately, your own classroom, that you remember some of the things that you’ve learned through blogging.
      My cooperating teacher always had me reflect after I taught a lesson, but she always had me focus on positives before negatives…do the same. You’ll get down on yourself too hard if you look at what went wrong first. Finding the good things will help you learn more from the mistakes in the long run.

  2. Peggy says:

    I teach an on-line math class in the province of Quebec. I have 40 students from around this huge province. I encourage students to provide feedback at all times. “I do not see your eyes” is what I often say. I need to know what you are thinking doing etc…I also emphasize they must reflect on their practices. I provide several opportunities throughout the year. Examples. I use twitter I create hashtags (#whatIlikeaboutonlinelearning) (#somethingIlearnedtoday) (#Inowunderstand..) They also create a portfolio and they update at strategic times during the year. I need to see evidence of their organization, their thoughts, their resolutions etc….And after every evaluation I create a google form where they must comment on each question from the test. They will provide feed back on where they went wrong, what they need to improve on, what I need to do to help them….

    • I almost wish I could give my students that experience. I love having them in school because of the interaction, but I want them to express themselves in constructive, reflective ways. I think that’s something that would happen online rather than face to face out of pure necessity, like you described. Do you go through a training process with your students? Or is it just continual reminders?

  3. […] have you learned recently? – Reflection is critical to learning. I wrote earlier about using Google Forms to reflect, and I’m going to keep those, but I think I need to go deeper. This question links back to my […]

  4. I will try “Google Forms” as well. I am told “Socrative Teacher” is also a good tool for formative assessments.

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