School Name: Horse Lake Elementary
School District: SD#27 Cariboo-Chilcotin
Inquiry Team Members: Kristi Pecor: email@example.com, Ty Lytton: firstname.lastname@example.org, Lisa Pugh: email@example.com, Jillian Eyer: firstname.lastname@example.org, Mike Davidson: email@example.com, Margaret Ramsay: firstname.lastname@example.org, John Foote: email@example.com, Leslie Dickson: firstname.lastname@example.org, Marissa Ball: email@example.com, Kyra Hopson: firstname.lastname@example.org and Marie Matwick: email@example.com.
Inquiry Team Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Type of Inquiry: NOIIE
Grade Levels: Primary (K-3), Intermediate (4-7)
Curricular Area(s): Language Arts – Literacy, Language Arts – Writing, Mathematics / Numeracy, Science, Social Studies
Focus Addressed: Formative assessment, Growth mindset
In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Our school chose to focus on student ownership of learning/growth mindset and assessment for learning practices.
Scanning: At the beginning of this year we used the ‘Scanning with the Circle of Courage’ scanning tool (provided by the administration of our district), and the most concern was around independence & student ownership of learning.
Focus: We decided that the best way to approach increasing students’ level of independence and responsibility was to focus on student ownership of learning/assessment for learning and growth mindset.
Hunch: Some students are being promoted to a higher grade when they have not mastered the previous grade and/or subject. It is challenging for these students to be responsible since they have not achieved a level of mastery or expertise that allows them to be independent in their current grade.
New Professional Learning: There are many books and videos about Growth Mindset that we hoped to investigate – the Train Ugly video series, The Growth Mindset Coach & Playbook, and Mindsets in the Classroom. A few teachers looked at one or two of these books; however, with the onset of Covid-19, most teachers ended up focusing their learning on how to teach students remotely.
Some teachers looked at the book “Empower” by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani to help promote student ownership of learning. We also investigated a variety of Assessment for Learning practices, such as “Make your own AFL books” and “Assessment for Learning Tools”.
Taking Action: This topic is large so we provided time for teachers to help narrow down the direction they would like to focus on so it would be most beneficial for their learners. Teachers explored assumptions about why some students are not owning their learning and are lacking independence and responsibility. We spent time exploring resources as well as available options so that teachers could make an informed decision around where they want to put their effort in order to obtain the results they would like to see in students.
Primary teachers decided to use red/yellow/green and/or check/x cards to have students self-assess their learning during class. The use of these cards provided the teachers with a quick and easy check of understanding of the students and taught the students how to self-assess their understanding. It helped the students think more about their thinking.
One class had been using hand signals to indicate their level of understanding during a lesson, so it was an easy transition for them to use the coloured cards. Their teacher would use the cards after teaching a lesson so students could indicate whether they understood it or not. The teacher also used them during independent work time. The students would put a card on their desk to indicate “I am good”, “I sort of get it”, or “I’m stuck and need help”. The students were quite accurate at the beginning with their choice of cards and became more accurate as the year progressed.
Another class used the check/x cards for students to take ownership over listening to, and following, directions given by the teacher. If the students used the check side of the card then they had to retell directions to another student, making them accountable for their choice. Students learned that they needed to pay attention to the teacher and be honest about the self-assessment of their level of understanding.
Intermediate teachers decided to focus on increasing student ownership of learning by involving them more in their learning – input into assessment criteria, choice of topics, questions, presentations, etc.
Teachers found that some of the changes were impactful for the students, but that others were not. Some students were more successful with an increase in choice, and others were a bit lost by not having direction provided by the teacher. Many students continued to ignore criteria for projects, even after being involved in the creation of the criteria. However, peer and self-editing and assessments worked well, and students took more ownership over projects when this was done.
Checking: If our inquiry was successful, students’ level of engagement would have increased. They would have become more responsible and independent learners. Students would use assessment to increase their learning regularly.
Teachers gave students a survey based on what they were implementing in their classroom at the beginning of the year. The plan was to survey the students again at the end of the school year, but, of course, we were not able to do this since most of the students did not return after Spring Break. Instead we used teacher observations as a basis for impact assessment in the ‘Checking Summary’ to follow.
With the global pandemic this year it is very difficult to draw any concrete conclusions about the impact our inquiry had on the students this year. The teachers felt that some of the changes they implemented in the classrooms worked very well, some did not. But, without being able to continue the changes in practice throughout an entire year, it is impossible to say whether, after more practice, the other areas would have worked as well. We will explore whether providing more time and/or practice, or implementing other supports, would help students to be more successful with an increase of choice and independence expectations. Without being able survey the students at the end of the year it is difficult to assess how they felt about the changes that were made.
Many teachers found that the changes they implemented in their classroom this year were working well for the time the students were in school, and they will continue using them next year. Some students were impacted by the changes and took more ownership over their learning. Hopefully the impact can be even greater next year if students are in class full time for the entire year.
Reflections/Advice: Teachers will continue to use assessment for learning practices in their classrooms. Some of the ideas that were implemented this year were successful and teachers will continue to use them with their students. In summary, based on what we learned this year we would recommend that others, if they do not already do so, involve students in their learning by seeking input into assessment criteria, choice of topics, presentations, etc. We would also recommend using check/x cards so students, especially at the primary level, can easily display their level of understanding of directions or an assignment.