As the school year winds down, it is always a good idea to reflect on successes, failures and opportunities for learning. Reflection on learning is necessary throughout the year, not just at the end of the year. It is also important to take into account multiple measures of assessment to get a holistic picture of ourselves and those we serve as ongoing learners.
Self-Reflections: One of the greatest ways to assess learning is through self-reflection. Self-reflection involves deep thinking about experiences that intrigued us and promoted increased learning. It also allows us to review the data to evaluate whether or not success was achieved. It is an opportunity to make revisions, adjust strategies and differentiate instructional practices to enhance learning. It is important to evaluate our own learning through the year by reflecting on questions such as:
What are my successes and accomplishments?
What were some opportunities for learning?
What have I learned from working with my students this year?
What do I specifically need to do to improve my performance?
What changes do I need to make to teaching?
What is my most inspirational experience this year?
What new goals should I set to continue learning and growing?
Student Letters: As part of my assessment of the learning my students and I achieved this year I also asked my students to self-reflect by writing short letters addressed to me. I encouraged them to reflect on their own learning and achievement; I also requested that they share with me their suggestions for making the literacy program more productive and helpful for future students. You can see the End of year reflection letter I used here.
The following are excerpts from my students’ letters:
“I learned how to write an essay perfectly. Before I didn’t know how to start an introduction or write a conclusion. But now it’s much easier for me.” –Sabanta
“My suggestion to you is next year you should make more writing work than reading. I also suggest that you do more vocabulary work next year with all the students.” –Andrew
“Being in Ms. Sihly’s class helped me learn how to write long responses to stories.” – Quavir
“I learned that you can keep going forward till you know the subject. And then you can achieve anything.” – Christopher
“Ms. Sihly, you have taught me a lot. I wish I can stay so I can learn more. I still need to work on reading more because I don’t know how to sound out some long words. But I know whoever works with Ms. Sihly will accomplish what they are learning.” — Brandon
“I learned new things this year in the reading program. I wrote an essay and had like five drafts for it. It took me a long time to write, and on my 6th draft (I think) I finally got it and learned how to make a perfect-copy essay.” – Ishrat
“I just loved your class. It helped me a lot. For example, the books that we read have encouraged me to read other books everyday. Another thing is the writing of essays. I would say that you should be more happy so students can follow you…I’ll never forget this class.” –Iram
This feedback informs me about what my students found helpful and what we need to still work on. It also gives me some insight into their thinking through some of the suggestions they provide for enhancing the effectiveness of the program.
Looking at multiples measures of reflections and evaluations, especially those that come from our students, will help us in developing growth plans to guide us in moving forward.
Online Surveys: Ongoing reflection is part of the leaders’ personal development and growth. Effective school leaders and teachers embrace feedback and suggestions from others to help them replenish their strategies and adopt innovative practices that will guide them in reaching mastery. Another great way of getting feeding from others is through online surveys. In the past I have set up online surveys for teachers and parents through www.survs.com. The site is quite easy to use and provides a variety of options to help anyone create fabulous surveys. Best of all, it is free! Using the surveys throughout the year helps school administrators and teachers receive valuable data about topics such as school climate, teacher needs, and responses to new initiatives. Appropriate surveys can even be created for students for a variety of evaluative and assessment purposes.
Student Portfolios: The use of student portfolios in assessing learning and growth is not a new concept. It has been around for more than a decade. However, most schools do not value their relevance in the measurement of learning and growth over time. Many teachers keep portfolios for their students and in many cases it is a requirement. But many school administrators and district leaders do not include it as a measured assessment of the school’s achievement as the case with data from standardized testing. Student portfolios, however, reflect tangible evidence of student growth and progress throughout the school year through conference notes, writing samples, reading assessments, anecdotal records, and student responses to literature. Well-stocked portfolios provide crucial data of learning.
Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. — William Bruce Cameron
Teachers and school leaders have a myriad of methods for obtaining great data that reflect learning, progress, and growth. Schools should not be limited to the scores on standardized state tests as the only measurement of growth and achievement. There are many other sources of data that should be considered when determining success in the classrooms and the school as a whole.
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