Action Research PART A PLANNING Identifying a Research Project How can a blog be used to track students’ ability to self
review and to identify next learning steps. Name of School/Class Balmacewen Intermediate School Room 23 Year 8 class Teacher Anna Garthwaite Context Class/School Description Year 8 class: 28 pupils – 15 boys and 13 girls The school is currently engaged in a programme of professional development involving ICT and Action Research. Research Focus/Questions To investigate using the tool of a classroom blog to track students ability to self review and for them to identify next learning steps. Through teaching self-review skills and using within classroom practice students should increase their ability to self-review. Rationale “WHY BOTHER WITH SELF ASSESSMENT?” (aaia – Association for Achievement and Improvement through Assessment) This statement formed the rationale for this action research. We ask the students to self assess their work frequently but often their self assessment comments lack depth or self awareness. This statement struck me as a reason why students often write surface answers without any real understanding of their achievements. With further reading it became evident to me that self assessment is a tool for the class which is under-utilised and is probably not understood completely by myself as well as the students in my class – yet I could see it could be a powerful tool for students to take control of their learning.
How does it benefit the students? • They become responsible for their own learning. • Are able to recognise next steps in learning. • Are actively involved in the learning process. • Becomes more independent and motivated. How does it benefit the teacher? • A shift of responsibility from teacher to pupil. • Feedback helps teacher identify pupil progress. • Identifies next steps for students. • Matches students’ perceptions of understanding with teachers – pupils explain strategies so teacher identifies thinking process. Using the blog as a tracking tool allows for students to have an ongoing record of their self review and to build up a picture over time of their progress. Project Outline • To teach the skills of self assessment. • To set up a class blog site. • To set up a classroom display for students to refer back to. • To give students a baseline questionnaire. Preparation Expected Outcomes Students will be able to self assess their learning and identify their next learning steps, demonstrating more awareness of their own learning and having a greater understanding of their achievements and learning. Outline Plan Preparation • Students complete a survey – to provide baseline data on self assessment. o Questions include: What are my strengths and weakness? How am I doing in my school work? Do I know how I am doing in my school work? I know what my school targets/goals are? How am I going to make this improvement? How will I know if my work is good/improving? What do I need to improve? • Set up a class blog site – 21classes.com
Lessons and Activities Prior to teaching self-assessment skills I asked the students to complete a survey to give me an indication of how they viewed their own learning – to provide me with some baseline data. I also set up the class blog site – 21classes.com. This is to be used as a tool for students to record their self-assessment and as a way for me to track their progress. Teaching self assessment skills: Self assessment was introduced through discussion and brainstorming. As a class we discussed: • What is effective self assessment? • What is the point of self assessment? I put a display with points that had been discussed – to provide information for students to refer back to. Display included: • Why bother with self assessment? - It is the means by which you, as students, take responsibility for your own learning. • Photos of students asking questions eg How will I know if my work is good? What are my goals? Self assessment was modelled. Using exemplars from Level 3,4,5, students used a matrix to assess the work and to identify the next learning steps. Students assessed Teacher’s writing and suggested next learning steps. Students begun to self assess own writing using a matrix. Specific questions were written under the matrix to ensure students written comments were focused. For example on the Volleyball Assessment matrix students are asked to comment on: • Which skills you have improved on • Which skills do you need to improve further • How well do you use the skills in the game? This formed the model for self assessment in the classroom environment. Students were regularly viewing and discussing exemplars to assess the learning and the next learning step. Then using the matrix to assess their own learning and commenting on their strengths and areas that still needed to be developed. Initially this was planned only for English and Reading but was soon incorporated into all areas of the curriculum particularly in integrated units. I also reviewed the term goal sheet that is handed out each term. In light of the students gaining a greater awareness of their learning I redesigned the Term goal sheet to reflect their more specific goals. I also had an individual conference with each student to discuss their learning goals for the term and to discuss strategies to help achieve these goals. I enjoyed this as it enabled for some meaningful discussions and built a sense of partnership with the students.
The new format was titled – My Individual Learning Programme. The questions included: o What have I achieved so far this year? o What are my goals for Term 3? o School work: o Extra Curricular: o Personal: o I chose my goals because: o How am I going to achieve them? o What strategies do I need? o What help do I need? o How will these goals help me? o Teacher Conference: The blog site was introduced early on in Term 3 and was incorporated into the Guided Silent Reading sessions as a follow up activity. The students were asked to write about how they felt about their learning in Reading and English. The baseline questionnaire was handed out again towards the end of Term 3 for students to review their understanding of self assessment. Evidence Gathering and Evaluation My sources of evidence included: o Questionnaires o Teacher observations o Blog entries o Term goals with teacher conference. The questionnaires I felt offered very limited feedback. Overall there was a general improvement in how students viewed their understanding and knew what their targets were, however I suspect that filling out a questionnaire didn’t require the students to really think about their learning where in comparison the teacher conference with Term Goals seemed to be a more valuable source of information. The Individual Learning Programme sheet focused the students on what their goals are and what strategies they need to reach them. By conferencing with each student, there seemed a greater understanding of where to focus learning and became more of a partnership with each student to achieve their goals. It also allowed for more questioning of their goals and where they see their strengths and weaknesses. The blog entries have not been developed as well as I had hoped and still need more development and modelling. The students like having their own weblog and individualising it but see it more like an informal chat room. This is an area which I will need to develop further and to clarify its use and purpose more. It has begun to be developed as another avenue for parents’ information about the events in Room 23 and as another avenue for me to post information such as weekly homework and spelling lists.
Conclusion In conclusion I have felt this is a valuable tool for the classroom and offers the students far more direction and understanding of their learning. It is tool which I will continue to use and to develop further. According to the Assessment for Learning: Beyond the Black Box, Assessment Reform Group, 1999 (extract – Assessment for learning, Secondary National Strategies, 2007) the seven key characteristics of assessment for learning are: o That is embedded in a view of teaching and learning of which it is an essential part. o Involves sharing learning goals with pupils. o Aims to help pupils to know and to recognise the standards they are aiming for. o Involves pupils in self assessment. o Provides feedback which leads to pupils recognising their next steps and how to take them o Promotes confidence that every pupil can improve. o Involves both teacher and pupils reviewing and reflecting on assessment data/information. This underpins what I have tried to implement into my classroom practice and which I will need to continue to do, to ensure that each student is able to recognise their success and achievements and to recognise where their next learning step is. The Next Step The next steps include continuing with the Individual Learning Programme sheet where the students are outlining their goals for the term and how they are going to achieve the goals. I will continue to conference each student on their term goals as I found this a very powerful tool to ensure I am reaching students’ individual needs. The students will be reflecting on their Term 3 goals and identifying their Term 4 goals in the first week of Term 4. I will also continue modelling and incorporating self assessment matrix and rubrics into each curriculum area and expecting to see the students to continue to identify their learning strengths and areas for improvement. For the Term 4 inquiry I will give the students the opportunity to select a skill or learning outcome they wish to achieve, thus providing students with more control over their learning. I will expect them to be able to justify why their chosen outcome was selected and why it has been an area for improvement. The class blog site will continue to evolve over Term 4 although its original purpose has changed since starting it. I will continue to use it as an information source for students and parents but I will also introduce a weekly or fortnightly question which requires the students to think and post some feedback.