From DSC:
Low-stakes formative assessments offer enormous benefits and should be used extensively throughout K-12, higher education, L&D/corporate universities, in law schools, medical schools, dental schools, and more. 

Below are my notes from the following article – with the provided emphasis/bolding/highlighting via colors, etc. coming from me:

Duhart, Olympia. “The “F” Word: The Top Five Complaints (and Solutions) About Formative Assessment.” Journal of Legal Education, vol. 67, no. 2 (winter 2018), pp. 531-49. <– with thanks to Emily Horvath, Director of Academic Services & Associate Professor, WMU-Cooley Law School

 


 

“No one gets behind the wheel of a car for the first time on the day of the DMV road test. People know that practice counts.” (p. 531)

“Yet many law professors abandon this common-sense principle when it comes to teaching law students. Instead of providing multiple opportunities for practice with plenty of space to fail, adjust, and improve, many law school professors place almost everything on a single high-stakes test at the end of the semester.” (p. 531)

 

“The benefits of formative assessment are supported by cognitive science, learning theory, legal education experts, and common sense. An exhaustive review of the literature on formative assessment in various schools settings has shown that it consistently improves academic performance.” (p. 544)

 

ABA’s new formative assessment standards (see pg 23)
An emphasis on formative assessments, not just a mid-term and/or a final exam – which are typically called “summative assessments.”

“The reliance on a single high-stakes exam at the end of the semester is comparable to taking the student driver straight to the DMV without spending any time practicing behind the wheel of a car. In contrast, formative assessment focuses on a feedback loop. It provides critical information to both the students and instructor about student learning.” (p. 533)

“Now a combination of external pressure and a renewed focus on developing self-regulated lawyers has brought formative assessment front and center for law schools.” (p. 533)

“In fall 2016, the ABA implemented new standards that require the use of formative assessment in law schools. Standard 314 explicitly requires law schools to use both formative and summative assessment to “’measure and improve’ student learning.” (pgs. 533-534)

 

Standard 314. ASSESSMENT OF STUDENT LEARNING
A law school shall utilize both formative and summative assessment methods in its curriculum to measure and improve student learning and provide meaningful feedback to students.

 Interpretation 314-1
Formative assessment methods are measurements at different points during a particular course or at different points over the span of a student’s education that provide meaningful feedback to improve student learning. Summative assessment methods are measurements at the culmination of a particular course or at the culmination of any part of a student’s legal education that measure the degree of student learning.

 Interpretation 314-2

A law school need not apply multiple assessment methods in any particular course. Assessment methods are likely to be different from school to school. Law schools are not required by Standard 314 to use any particular assessment method.

 


From DSC:
Formative assessments use tests as a learning tool/strategy. They help identify gaps in students’ understanding and can help the instructor adjust their teaching methods/ideas on a particular topic. What are the learners getting? What are they not getting? These types of assessments are especially important in the learning experiences of students in their first year of law school.  All students need feedback, and these assessments can help give them feedback as to how they are doing.

Practice. Repetition. Feedback.  <– all key elements in providing a solid learning experience!


 

“…effective assessment practices are linked to the development of effective lawyers.” (pg. 535)

Low-risk formative assessment give students multiple opportunities to make mistakes and actively engage with the material they are learning.” (p. 537)

Formative assessments force the students to practice recall. This is very helpful in terms of helping students actually remember the information. The spaced out practice of forcing recall – no matter how much the struggle of recalling it – aids in retaining information and moving items into longer-term memory. (See Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, & Mark A. McDaniel). In fact, according to this book’s authors, the more the struggle in recalling the information, the greater the learning.

Formative assessments can help students own their own learning. Self-regulation. Provide opportunities for students to practice meta-cognition – i.e., thinking about their thinking.

“Lawyers need to be experts at self-regulated learning.” (p. 541)

The use of numerous, low-stakes quizzes and more opportunities for feedback reduces test anxiety and can help with the mental health of students. Can reduce depression and help build a community of learners. (p. 542)

“Millennials prefer interactive learning opportunities, regular assessments, and immediate feedback.” (p. 544)

 


Ideas:


  • As a professor, you don’t have to manually grade every formative assessment. Technology can help you out big time. Consider building a test bank of multiple-choice questions and then drawing upon them to build a series of formative assessments. Have the technology grade the exams for you.
    • Digital quizzes using Blackboard Learn, Canvas, etc.
    • Tools like Socrative
  • Alternatively, have the students grade each other’s work or their own work. Formative assessments don’t have to be graded or count towards a grade. The keys are in learners practicing their recall, checking their own understanding, and, for the faculty member, perhaps pointing out the need to re-address something and/or to experiment with one’s teaching methods.
  • Consider the use of rubrics to help make formative assessments more efficient. Rubrics can relay the expectations of the instructors on any given assignment/assessment. Rubrics can also help TA’s grade items or even the students in grading each other’s items.
  • Formative assessments don’t have to be a quiz/test per se. They can be games, presentations, collaborations with each other.

 


For further insights on this topic (and more) from Northwestern University, see:

New ABA Requirements Bring Changes to Law School Classrooms, Creating Opportunity, and Chaos –from blog.northwesternlaw.review by Jacob Wentzel

Excerpt:

Unbeknownst to many students J.D. and L.L.M. students, our classroom experiences are embarking upon a long-term path toward what could be significant changes as a trio of ABA requirements for law schools nationwide begin to take effect.

The requirements are Standards 302, 314, and 315 , each of which defines a new type of requirement: learning outcomes (302), assessments (314), and global evaluations of these (315). According to Christopher M. Martin, Assistant Dean and Clinical Assistant Professor at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law, these standards take after similar ones that the Department of Education rolled out for undergraduate universities years ago. In theory, they seek to help law schools improve their effectiveness by, among other things, telling students what they should be learning and tracking students’ progress throughout the semester. Indeed, as a law student, it often feels like you lose the forest for the trees, imbibing immense quantities of information without grasping the bigger picture, let alone the skills the legal profession demands.

By contrast, formative assessment is about assessing students “at different points during a particular course,” precisely when many courses typically do not. Formative assessments are also about generating information and ideas about what professors do in the classroom. Such assessment methods include quizzes, midterms, drafts, rubrics, and more. Again, professors are not required to show students the results of such assessments, but must maintain and collect the data for institutional purposes—to help law schools track how students are learning material during the semester and to make long-term improvements.

 

And/or see a Google query on “ABA new formative assessment standards”

 

 

 

 

“Retrieval practice” is a learning strategy where we focus on getting information out. Through the act of retrieval, or calling information to mind, our memory for that information is strengthened and forgetting is less likely to occur. Retrieval practice is a powerful tool for improving learning without more technology, money, or class time.

On this website (and in our free Retrieval Practice Guide), we discuss how to use retrieval practice to improve learning. Established by nearly 100 years of research, retrieval practice is a simple and powerful technique to transform teaching and learning.

In order to improve learning, we must approach it through a new lens – let’s focus not on getting information “in,” but on getting information “out.”

 

 

What is retrieval practice?
Retrieval practice is a strategy in which bringing information to mind enhances and boosts learning. Deliberately recalling information forces us to pull our knowledge “out” and examine what we know.

For instance, recalling an answer to a science question improves learning to a greater extent than looking up the answer in a textbook. And having to actually recall and write down an answer to a flashcard improves learning more than thinking that you know the answer and flipping the card over prematurely.

Often, we think we’ve learned some piece of information, but we come to realize we struggle when we try to recall the answer. It’s precisely this “struggle” or challenge that improves our memory and learning – by trying to recall information, we exercise or strengthen our memory, and we can also identify gaps in our learning.

Note that cognitive scientists used to refer to retrieval practice as “the testing effect.” Prior research examined the fascinating finding that tests (or short quizzes) dramatically improve learning. More recently, researchers have demonstrated that more than simply tests and quizzes improve learning: flashcards, practice problems, writing prompts, etc. are also powerful tools for improving learning. 

Whether this powerful strategy is called retrieval practice or the testing effect, it is important to keep in mind that the act of pulling information “out” from our minds dramatically improves learning, not the tests themselves. In other words retrieval is the active process we engage in to boost learning; tests and quizzes are merely methods to promote retrieval.

 

 

Also on that site:

 

 

Learn more about this valuable book with our:

 

 

Also on that site:

 

 

Excerpt from the Interleaved Mathematics Practice guide (on page 8 of 13):

Interleaved practice gives students a chance to choose a strategy.
When practice problems are arranged so that consecutive problems cannot be solved by the same strategy, students are forced to choose a strategy on the basis of the problem itself. This gives students a chance to both choose and use a strategy.

Interleaved practice works.
In several randomized control studies, students who received mostly interleaved practice scored higher on a final test than did students who received mostly blocked practice.

 

 

 



From DSC:
Speaking of resources regarding learning…why don’t we have posters in all of our schools, colleges, community colleges, universities, vocational training centers, etc. that talk about the most effective strategies to learn about new things?



 

 

 

Five things parents should know about end-of-year testing — from/by Hilary Scharton, Vice President of K-12 Product Strategy for Canvas by Instructure; with thanks to Ann Noder, CEO/President Pitch Public Relations, for this resource


Every spring, schools across the nation give students millions of standardized tests. Students sit for hours, filling in answer bubbles with their number two pencils for an exam that may span days. They’re told the tests are “important”, they need to “do their best”, and that they have “one chance” to show what they’ve learned. For any child–much less one with test anxiety, ADHD, or learning disabilities–it can be a painful process.

Should we let our students take these tests? In 2015, over 650,000 students (1) nationwide opted out of standardized tests. In some parts of the country, up to 20% of students did not participate. What can a test tell us about how our kids are doing? Here are five things parents should know about end-of-year testing:

1. Tests don’t measure what we think they do
We expect tests to tell us how much students have learned. However, significant evidence shows tests aren’t great at figuring out what you know or what your potential is.

Consider the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). For many of us, it was a rite of passage that evaluated your entire school career and gave colleges a way to predict whether or not you’d be a successful student. However, the best prediction you can make from an SAT is how much money your parents earn.(2) Your score will go up 30 points for every $10,000 in your parents’ yearly income.

In addition, scoring well on the SAT has almost no correlation with success in college. The best predictor is high school grades.

2. Tests are designed to be efficient and compare groups
Most tests are designed to make efficient comparisons between groups, not tell us about individuals. Group comparisons are valuable because they give us data about curriculum efficacy and how to allocate funding.

However, if we want efficient group measures, there are limitations. These tests won’t cover every topic students learned and will need to be easy to give and grade.

That means test authors have to use questions like multiple guess choice and leave out questions that might get at more important skills like critical thinking or creativity. If you’re only doing multiple choice, you’re rewarding passive and superficial learning like memorizing facts or formulas. When the last time was your job let you pick the right answer from a list?

3. Test prep is often antithetical to learning
In states where testing is king, it often comes with an emphasis on “accountability.” The idea behind the accountability movement is that we, as taxpayers, should be able to ensure we’re getting the highest educational value for our tax dollar. If that’s our ultimate goal, it makes sense to set up rewards (and penalties) so teachers and districts get the best performance possible from their students.

In these states, we see more time devoted to teaching test-taking skills. Teachers and students learn which kinds of questions and topics are covered and dedicate class time to practice. That’s not intended to game the system, but to give students tips about how to be a good test taker. (Ever learn that if you don’t know the right answer, pick B? How often have you used that knowledge since you left school?)

The positive is that it usually works. Students score a little better on the state exam. However, research shows that states that focus on accountability perform much worse on nationwide and international tests than states that place less emphasis on accountability. It turns out the time your teacher spent in class talking about answer B and #2 pencils would have been better spent teaching you more academic content.

4. Different tests tell us about individual learning
So if our current tests aren’t telling us what we need to know about individual students, what can we do? In short, we need to do more testing, which sounds crazy. We need to make sure we’re doing different kinds of testing so we get good group data AND good individual data. We can best measure individual growth with authentic tests that are integrated into learning. Assessment is authentic when it asks students to apply their knowledge to real-world, meaningful problems.

Imagine you’re back in geometry class and need to learn about volume. Would you rather have your teacher tell you the formula and give you a worksheet to practice (how we’d learn if standardized test grades were the goal) or could you learn more if your teacher gave you a project to come up with a better juice box that minimized shipping costs and maximized profits?

Likely the latter would not only make you more interested in learning about volume (“When will I ever use this?”), but you’d also have the opportunity to work on other important skills. Project-oriented, goals-driven group learning is an engaging way to teach students how to apply what they’ve learned, while also giving them practice working cooperatively, being creative, and dealing with messy problems that might not have one “right” answer. It gives students opportunities to apply their knowledge and a glimpse into what adults do in the workplace.

Teachers do this kind of assessment almost reflexively, whether students are raising their hands to answer a question, working in small groups, or doing independent research. One of the difficulties with this kind of assessment, however, is that the rich experiential data in classrooms is often lost. Fortunately, schools more often have access to technology that will help teachers do assessment, quickly see results, and then make important decisions about what students know.

5. How can I make sure my child is doing well?
Be involved. Districts are great at letting parents know when and how students will participate in standardized tests, but the only way to know about what’s happening in the classroom is to talk with your child’s teacher.

Teachers are experts–they know how important assessment is and how to do it well. Don’t be afraid to ask how your child will be graded on what they learn, what success looks like, or how much time will be spent preparing for standardized tests.

If you live in a state that emphasizes accountability, let your local representatives know that you care about more than test scores. Ask for teacher and school ratings to connect to other metrics like college acceptance, AP completion/pass rates, or student engagement. We, as parents, know what’s best for our individual children and must feel empowered to ask for it.

1. http://www.fairtest.org/more-500000-refused-tests-2015
2. http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/research/2013/TotalGroup-2013.pdf

 


Hilary Scharton loves education and has worked in it, in some form or another, for her entire career. She currently serves as the Vice President of K-12 Product Strategy for Canvas by Instructure, the open online learning management system (LMS) that makes teaching and learning easier. In her role, she sets the strategic vision for how Canvas makes its products even more awesome for students and teachers across the globe, while focusing on leveraging technology to support improved instruction and equitable access for all students.


 

 

 

 

From DSC:
I vote that we change the color that we grade papers — whether on paper (harcopy) or whether via digitally/electronically-based annotations — from red to green. Why? Because here’s how I see the colors:

  • RED:
    • Failure. 
    • You got it wrong. Bad job.
    • Danger
    • Stop!
    • Can be internalized as, “I’m no good at (writing, math, social studies, science, etc…..) and I’ll never be any good at it (i.e., the fixed mindset; I was born this way and I can’t change things).
  • GREEN:
    • Growth
      • As in spring, flowers appearing, new leaves on the trees, new life
      • As in support of a growth mindset
      • It helps with more positive thoughts/internalized messages: I may have got it wrong, but I can use this as a teaching moment; this feedback helps me grow…it helps me identify my knowledge and/or skills gaps
    • Health
    • Go (not stop); i.e., keep going, keep learning
    • May help develop more of a love of learning (or at least have more positive experiences with learning, vs feeling threatened or personally put down)

 

 

 

The problem with hurrying childhood learning — from edweek.org by Justin Minkel

Excerpts:

When he lectured in the United States, Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget would invariably get what he called “the American question” from a member of the audience. After he had explained various developmental phases that young children go through in their understanding of concepts like length and volume, someone would raise their hand and ask, “How can we accelerate a child’s progress through the stages?”

Baffled, Piaget would explain that there is absolutely no advantage to speeding up a child’s progression. The point of knowing the stages is to be aware of what stage a child is in, so that we can create the conditions and offer the guidance to help her move to the next one. It’s not a race.

One of the most insidious results of the testing madness afflicting education has been an emphasis on speeding toward a particular outcome—a reading level, a cut score—without taking the time to ask what is sacrificed in that rush.

We need, of course, to pay attention to academic growth. It’s one thing for a child to be below grade-level or to be on a trajectory toward catching up over the next couple of years. It’s a fundamentally different situation when a child is virtually flat-lining in his progress, or is making such slow growth that if he continues at that rate, he won’t become a proficient reader in time to acquire the content and confidence he’ll need to thrive in school.

But I see too many kids who are hurried and harried toward the level they’re “supposed” to be on by the end of a given grading period, with too little attention given to the path they’re walking to get there. I see children begin to define themselves by test scores, grades, and how quickly they’re leapfrogging from one level to the next.

Here are two ways that teachers, parents, and administrators can take a deep breath and see past the timetables set by adults to the particular journeys of the children themselves.

But here’s the critical point about their progress: that growth is a positive side effect, not the end goal, of the block of time we call the “Wild Reading Rumpus.” The true purpose of that reading time is for my students to come to love reading, so that they will lead richer lives—not just in the future, when they go on to college or a career, but in the present.

 

When we celebrated their perseverance and hard work, I had children stand and be applauded not according to how high their score was, but according to how much growth they had made.

 

 

From DSC:
I just thought this was an excellent essay.

Too often K-12 education in the United States is like a run-away train. When the train’s leaving the station, you better hop on board. It waits for no one. Its speed is set. You better keep up. Good luck to those who don’t. “Best wishes!” our system cries out.

 

 

 

Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning— by Peter C. Brown, Henry L Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel

Some of the key points and learning strategies they mention in the preface:

  • The most effective learning strategies are not intuitive
  • Spaced repetition of key ideas and the interleaving of different but related topics are two excellent teaching/learning strategies

 

“This is a book about what people can do for themselves right now in order to learn better and remember longer. The responsibility for learning rests with every individual.”

 

 

Some the key points and learning strategies they mention in the first chapter:

  • When they talk about learning they mean acquiring knowledge and skills and having them readily available from memory so you can make sense of future problems and opportunities.
  • There are some immutable aspects of learning that we can probably all agree on:
    1. To be useful, learning requires memory, so what we’ve learned is till there later when we need it.
    2. We need to keep learning and remembering all our lives.
    3. Learning is an acquired skill and most effective strategies are counterintuitive
  • Learning is deeper and more durable when it’s effortful
  • We are poor judges of when we are learning well and when we’re not
  • Rereading text and massed practice (i.e., cramming) of a skill or new knowledge are by far the preferred study strategies of learners of all stripes, but they”re also among the least productive. Rereading and cramming give rise to feeling of fluency that are taken to be signs of mastery, but for true mastery or durability these strategies are largely a waste of time.
  • Retrieval practice — recalling facts or concepts or events from memory — is a more effective learning strategy than reviewing by rereading
    • Flashcards are a simple example
    • Retrieval strengthens the memory and interrupts forgetting
    • A single simple quiz after reading a text or hearing a lecture produces better learning and remembering that rereading the text of reviewing lecture notes.
  • Periodic practice arrest forgetting, strengthens retrieval routes, and is essential for hanging onto the knowledge you want to gain.
  • Space out practice and interleave the practice of 2 or more subjects, retrieval is harder and feels less productive, but the effort produces longer lasting learning and enables more versatile application of it in later settings.
  • Trying to solve a problem before being taught the solution leads to better learning, even when errors are made in the attempt.
  • Learning styles are not supported by the empirical research.
  • When you’re adept at extracting the underlying principles or “rules” that differentiate types of problems, you’re more successful at picking the right solutions in unfamiliar situations. This skill is better acquired through interleaved and varied practice than massed practice.
  • In virtually all areas of learning, you build better mastery when you use testing as a tool to identify and bring up your areas of weakness.
  • All learning requires a foundation of prior knowledge.

 

If you practice elaboration, there’s no known limit to how much you can learn. Elaboration is the process of giving new material meaning by expressing it in your own words and connecting it with what you already know. The more you can explain about the way your new learning relates to your prior knowledge, the stronger your grasp of the new learning will be, and the more connections you create that will help you remember it later.***

 

“When learning is hard, you’re doing important work.”

 

“Making mistakes and correcting them builds the bridges to advanced learning.”

 

Learning is stronger when it matters.^^^

 

  • One of the most striking research findings is the power of active retrieval — testing — to strengthen memory, and the more effortful the retrieval, the stronger the benefit.
  • The act of retrieving learning from memory has 2 profound benefits:
    1. It tells you what you know and don’t know, and therefore where to focus further study
    2. Recalling what you have learned causes your bring to reconsolidate the memory
  • To learn better and remember longer, [use]:
    • various forms of retrieval practice, such as low-stakes quizzing and self-testing
    • spacing out practice
    • interleaving the practice of different but related topics or skills
    • trying to solve a problem before being taught the solution
    • and distilling the underlying principles or rules that differentiate types of problems

 

One of the best habits a learner can instill in herself is regular self-quizzing to recalibrate her understanding of what she does and does not know. 

 

Brown, P. C., Roediger III, H. L., & McDaniel, M. A. (2014).
Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning.
Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Retrieved from https://www.amazon.com/Make-Stick-Science-Successful-Learning/dp/0674729013

 

 

*** This quote reminds me of what turned Quin Schultze’ learning around. With Quin’s permission, the following excerpt is from Quentin Schultze’s solid book, Communicate like a True Leader (pages 35 & 36)

 

 

 

During the beginning of my sophomore year, I started reviewing each day’s class notes after classes were over. I soon realized how little I recalled even of that day’s lectures and discussions. It dawned on me that normal note-taking merely gave me the impression that I was learning. I implemented a strategy that revolutionized my learning, launched me successfully into graduate school, helped me become a solid teacher, equipped me to be a productive researcher-writer, and made it possible for me to be an engaging speaker.

I not only reviewed my notes daily. I rewrote them from scratch within a couple of hours of each class meeting. I used my actual course notes as prompts to recall more of the lecture and to help me organize my own reactions to the material. My notes expanded. My retention swelled.

My revised notes became a kind of journal of my dialogue with the instructor and the readings. I integrated into my revised course notes my daily reading notes, reworking them into language that was meaningful to me and preparing to ask the instructor at the next class anything that I was uncertain about. From then on I earned nearly straight A’s with far less cramming for exams.

Moreover, I had begun journaling about my learning — one of the most important communication skills. I became a real learner by discovering how to pay attention to others and myself.

In a broad sense, I learned how to listen.

 

^^^ This quote explains why it is so important to answer the first question a learner asks when approaching a new lesson/topic/lecture/etc.:

  • Why is this topic relevant?
    i.e., why is this topic important and worthy of my time to learn it?

 

 

From DSC:
After seeing the article entitled, “Scientists Are Turning Alexa into an Automated Lab Helper,” I began to wonder…might Alexa be a tool to periodically schedule & provide practice tests & distributed practice on content? In the future, will there be “learning bots” that a learner can employ to do such self-testing and/or distributed practice?

 

 

From page 45 of the PDF available here:

 

Might Alexa be a tool to periodically schedule/provide practice tests & distributed practice on content?

 

 

 

Why Students Forget—and What You Can Do About It — from edutopia.org by Youki Terada
Our brains are wired to forget, but there are research-backed strategies you can use to make your teaching stick.

Excerpt:

5 Teacher Strategies
When students learn a new piece of information, they make new synaptic connections. Two scientifically based ways to help them retain learning is by making as many connections as possible—typically to other concepts, thus widening the “spiderweb” of neural connections—but also by accessing the memory repeatedly over time.

Which explains why the following learning strategies, all tied to research conducted within the past five years, are so effective:

  1. Peer-to-peer explanations: When students explain what they’ve learned to peers, fading memories are reactivated, strengthened, and consolidated. This strategy not only increases retention but also encourages active learning (Sekeres et al., 2016).
  2. The spacing effect: Instead of covering a topic and then moving on, revisit key ideas throughout the school year. Research shows that students perform better academically when given multiple opportunities to review learned material. For example, teachers can quickly incorporate a brief review of what was covered several weeks earlier into ongoing lessons, or use homework to re-expose students to previous concepts (Carpenter et al., 2012; Kang, 2016).
  3. Frequent practice tests: Akin to regularly reviewing material, giving frequent practice tests can boost long-term retention and, as a bonus, help protect against stress, which often impairs memory performance. Practice tests can be low stakes and ungraded, such as a quick pop quiz at the start of a lesson or a trivia quiz on Kahoot, a popular online game-based learning platform. Breaking down one large high-stakes test into smaller tests over several months is an effective approach (Adesope, Trevisan, & Sundararajan, 2017; Butler, 2010; Karpicke, 2016).
  4. Interleave concepts: Instead of grouping similar problems together, mix them up. Solving problems involves identifying the correct strategy to use and then executing the strategy. When similar problems are grouped together, students don’t have to think about what strategies to use—they automatically apply the same solution over and over. Interleaving forces students to think on their feet, and encodes learning more deeply (Rohrer, 2012; Rohrer, Dedrick, & Stershic, 2015).
  5. Combine text with images: It’s often easier to remember information that’s been presented in different ways, especially if visual aids can help organize information. For example, pairing a list of countries occupied by German forces during World War II with a map of German military expansion can reinforce that lesson. It’s easier to remember what’s been read and seen, instead of either one alone (Carney & Levin, 2002; Bui & McDaniel, 2015).

So even though forgetting starts as soon as learning happens—as Ebbinghaus’s experiments demonstrate—research shows that there are simple and effective strategies to help make learning stick.

 

 

 

Will Letter Grades Survive? — from edutopia.org by Laura McKenna
A century-old pillar of the school system is under fire as schools look to modernize student assessment.

Excerpt:

Under pressure from an unprecedented constellation of forces—from state lawmakers to prestigious private schools and college admissions offices—the ubiquitous one-page high school transcript lined with A–F letter grades may soon be a relic of the past.

In the last decade, at least 15 state legislatures and boards of education have adopted policies incentivizing their public schools to prioritize measures other than grades when assessing students’ skills and competencies. And more recently, over 150 of the top private high schools in the U.S., including Phillips Exeter and Dalton—storied institutions which have long relied on the status conveyed by student ranking—have pledged to shift to new transcripts that provide more comprehensive, qualitative feedback on students while ruling out any mention of credit hours, GPAs, or A–F grades.

 

 

“The grading system right now is demoralizing and is designed to produce winners and losers,” said Looney. “The purpose of education is not to sort kids—it’s to grow kids. Teachers need to coach and mentor, but with grades, teachers turn into judges. I think we can show the unique abilities of kids without stratifying them.”

 

 


There are other unanswered questions and challenges to be worked out, too. Will college admissions counselors have enough time, especially at large public colleges, to look meaningfully at dense digital portfolios of student work? Will the new transcripts create too much work and new training for K-12 teachers, as they struggle to measure hard-to-define categories of learning? Perhaps most importantly, will parents buy in?

 

 

 

Also relevant/see:

What Failing Students Want Us to Remember — from edutopia.org by Rebecca Alber
By seeing students as more than their grades, we can enable them to reach their potential.

Excerpt:

1. I am not my grade. I don’t get good grades or earn a lot of points on assignments even though I know some stuff. I often won’t even try because I know I’m going to get a bad grade. I wish there were other ways besides grades or points to show who I really am.

2. I can still contribute meaningfully. I like to help, but I pretend sometimes like I don’t and that I don’t care about being part of the school or my class. I protect myself because in school, the kids with good grades get picked to help more often.

3. I am not a disappointment. School is hard, and I know I let my teachers down, and when working in a group, I let down my classmates too. Because of this, I struggle to feel good about myself every day. What am I doing right? I wish in school that we could look at all the stuff we do right and not just mostly the things we do wrong.

4. Meet me where I am. There’s stuff I can do—just not this, right now, like this. I wish I had more time. I wish the directions and assignments made more sense to me. So much of school is so rushed and confusing.

5. Don’t give up. Find a way for me. I’m not sure why I don’t get it. I want someone to keep trying to find out. It’s not that I don’t want to do it, even though it sometimes looks like that. It helps when adults ask me questions. I can’t do it right now, but maybe someday I’ll be able to.

 

 

 

 


From DSC:
From an early age, we need to help our students learn how to learn. What tips, advice, and/or questions can we help our students get into the habit of asking themselves? Along these lines, the article below,”How Metacognition Boosts Learning,” provides some excellent questions. 

Speaking of questions…I’ll add some more, but of a different sort:

  • How can all educators do a better job of helping their students learn how to learn?
  • How can Instructional Designers and Instructional Technologists help out here? Librarians? Provosts? Deans? Department Chairs? Teachers? Trainers (in the corporate L&D space)?
  • How might technologies come into play here in terms of building more effective web-based learner profiles that can be fed into various platforms and/or into teachers’ game plans?

I appreciate Bill Knapp and his perspectives very much (see here and here; Bill is GRCC’s Executive Director of Distance Learning & Instructional Technologies). The last we got together, we wondered out loud:

  • Why don’t teachers, professors, school systems, administrations within in K-20 address this need/topic more directly…? (i.e., how can we best help our students learn how to learn?)
  • Should we provide a list of potentially helpful techniques, questions, tools, courses, modules, streams of content, or other resources on how to learn?
  • Should we be weaving these sorts of things into our pedagogies?
  • Are there tools — such as smartphone related apps — that can be of great service here? For example, are there apps for sending out reminders and/or motivational messages?

As Bill asserted, we need to help our students build self-efficacy and a mindset of how to learn. Then learners can pivot into new areas with much more confidence. I agree. In an era that continues to emphasize freelancing and entrepreneurship — plus dealing with a rapidly-changing workforce — people now need to be able to learn quickly and effectively. They need to have the self confidence to be able to pivot. So how can we best prepare our students for their futures?

Also, on a relevant but slightly different note (and I suppose is of the flavor of a Universal Design for Learning approach)…I think that “tests” given to special needs children — for example that might have to do with executive functioning, and/or identifying issues, and/or providing feedback as to how a particular learner might best absorb information — would be helpful for ALL students to take. If I realize that the way my brain learns best is to have aural and visual materials presented on any given topic, that is very useful information for me to realize — and the sooner the better!

 



How Metacognition Boosts Learning — from edutopia.org by Youki Terada
Students often lack the metacognitive skills they need to succeed, but they can develop these skills by addressing some simple questions.

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

Strategies that target students’ metacognition—the ability to think about thinking—can close a gap that some students experience between how prepared they feel for a test and how prepared they actually are. In a new study, students in an introductory college statistics class who took a short online survey before each exam asking them to think about how they would prepare for it earned higher grades in the course than their peers—a third of a letter grade higher, on average. This low-cost intervention helped students gain insight into their study strategies, boosting their metacognitive skills and giving them tools to be more independent learners.

More recently, a team of psychologists and neuroscientists published a comprehensive analysis of 10 learning techniques commonly used by students. They discovered that one of the most popular techniques—rereading material and highlighting key points—is also one of the least effective because it leads students to develop a false sense of mastery. They review a passage and move on without realizing that they haven’t thoroughly understood and absorbed the material.

Metacognition helps students recognize the gap between being familiar with a topic and understanding it deeply. But weaker students often don’t have this metacognitive recognition—which leads to disappointment and can discourage them from trying harder the next time.

To promote students’ metacognition, middle and high school teachers can implement the following strategies. Elementary teachers can model or modify these strategies with their students to provide more scaffolding.

During class, students should ask themselves:

  • What are the main ideas of today’s lesson?
  • Was anything confusing or difficult?
  • If something isn’t making sense, what question should I ask the teacher?
  • Am I taking proper notes?
  • What can I do if I get stuck on a problem?

Before a test, students should ask themselves:

  • What will be on the test?
  • What areas do I struggle with or feel confused about?
  • How much time should I set aside to prepare for an upcoming test?
  • Do I have the necessary materials (books, school supplies, a computer and online access, etc.) and a quiet place to study, with no distractions?
  • What strategies will I use to study? Is it enough to simply read and review the material, or will I take practice tests, study with a friend, or write note cards?
  • What grade would I get if I were to take the test right now?

After a test, students should ask themselves:

  • What questions did I get wrong, and why did I get them wrong?
  • Were there any surprises during the test?
  • Was I well-prepared for the test?
  • What could I have done differently?
  • Am I receiving useful, specific feedback from my teacher to help me progress?

 



From DSC:
Below are a few resources more about metacognition and learning how to learn:

 

 

 

  • Students should be taught how to study. — from Daniel Willingham
    Excerpt:
    Rereading is a terribly ineffective strategy. The best strategy–by far–is to self-test–which is the 9th most popular strategy out of 11 in this study. Self-testing leads to better memory even compared to concept mapping (Karpicke & Blunt, 2011).

 

 

 

  • The Lesson You Never Got Taught in School: How to Learn! — from bigthink.com
    Excerpt:
    Have you ever wondered whether it is best to do your studying in large chunks or divide your studying over a period of time? Research has found that the optimal level of distribution of sessions for learning is 10-20% of the length of time that something needs to be remembered. So if you want to remember something for a year you should study at least every month, if you want to remember something for five years you should space your learning every six to twelve months. If you want to remember something for a week you should space your learning 12-24 hours apart. It does seem however that the distributed-practice effect may work best when processing information deeply – so for best results you might want to try a distributed practice and self-testing combo.There is however a major catch – do you ever find that the amount of studying you do massively increases before an exam? Most students fall in to the “procrastination scallop” – we are all guilty at one point of cramming all the knowledge in right before an exam, but the evidence is pretty conclusive that this is the worst way to study, certainly when it comes to remembering for the long term. What is unclear is whether cramming is so popular because students don’t understand the benefits of distributed practice or whether testing practices are to blame – probably a combination of both. One thing is for sure, if you take it upon yourself to space your learning over time you are pretty much guaranteed to see improvements.

 

 



Addendum on 1/22/18:

Using Metacognition to Promote Learning
IDEA Paper #63 | December 2016
By Barbara J. Millis

Excerpt:

Some Definitions of Metacognition
Metacognition, simplistically defined, can be described as “cognition about cognition” or “thinking about thinking” (Flavell, Miller & Miller, 2002, p. 175; Shamir, Metvarech, & Gida, 2009, p. 47; Veeman, Van Hout-Wolters, & Afflerbach, 2006, p. 5). However, because metacognition is multifaceted and multi-layered (Dunlosky & Metcalf, 2009, p. 1; Flavell, 1976; Hall, Danielewicz, & Ware , 2013, p. 149; Lovett, 2013, p. 20), more complex definitions are called for. Basically, metacognition must be viewed as an ongoing process that involves reflection and action. Metacognitive thinkers change both their understandings and their strategies. The clearest definitions of metacognition emphasize its nature as a process or cycle.

Several authors (Nilson, 2013, p. 9; Schraw, 2001; & Zimmerman, 1998; 2000; 2002) narrow this process down to three ongoing stages. The first stage, pre-planning, emphasizes the need for reflection on both one’s own thinking and the task at hand, including reflection on past strategies that might have succeeded or failed. Following this self-reflection, during planning, metacognitive thinkers develop and implement—put into action—a plan. In the third and final stage—post-planning adjustments/revisions—subsequent analysis following implementation leads to modifications, revised decisions, and new future plans. In an excellent summary, Wirth states that “metacognition requires students both to understand how they are learning and to develop the ability to make plans, to monitor progress and to make adjustments” (as cited in Jaschik, 2011, p. 2).

 

Conclusion: As we have seen, metacognition is a complex but valuable skill that can nurture students’ learning and their self-awareness of the learning process. It is best conceived as a three-step process that can occur through deliberately designed activities. Such activities can take place before, during, and after face-to-face lessons or through online learning. They can also be built around both multiple choice and essay examinations. Immersing students in these metacognitive activities—assuming there are opportunities for practice and feedback—can result in students who are reflective learners.

 

 

 

 

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