A confession - I love fitness trackers! As a cyclist, my onboard computer tracks a wide variety of data . . . Speed, distance, cadence and temperature. I recently received a Fitbit and use it to calculate both exercise and food goals. I love seeing how far I've ridden or how many steps I took during the day. These devices don't cause a guilt reaction when a goal isn't reached (I was a little worried about that), but rather help me reflect on what I have accomplished! They never tell me what I haven't done, only what I've completed. Most importantly, I only compare my progress with me - no one else's data is considered.
My love of fitness trackers raises a question for us as educators - how can we help our students track their own growth and progress as learners? For many of us, spring brings a time of state standardized testing. Both students and teachers are put in a situation where our learning is measured against everyone else's data and progress is measured in only one way. The pressure to do well increases and becomes evident in classrooms everywhere. How can we balance out the need for assessing student growth at school and nationwide, while helping students measure their own growth?
We consciously decided to help our students reflect on their own learning. In our building, spring parent-teacher conferences are student led. Wanting our 9 year olds to put some thought into their reflections, we had them fill out a reflection sheet for every subject area. The reflection sheets were open-ended, asking things such as "My greatest strength as a writer is ______" and "My greatest challenge in math is _______________." I was so impressed with the students' responses. After talking through the purposes and doing some all group brainstorming to get our thinking started, students were left to complete the reflection sheets independently. We divided up the tasks over three days to prevent some burnout. What thoughtful responses they wrote!
Students had their reflection sheets ready to present during their conference times. Although I was present, this was a time for the students to shine. It was so fulfilling to hear what they had to say. Some sample comments were: "My biggest challenge as a writer is to edit my writing. I know it's important so that my reader understands what I am trying to communicate." "The steps in long division were confusing to me at first, but I am starting to understand it!" "The book character who has meant the most to me was Kek from Home of the Brave. I love how he never gave up in taking care of Gol."
The students appreciated a time to think about their own learning and sharing it with their families. It was a reminder to me of the importance of tracking personal progress - whether that progress be miles biked, steps taken, or skills mastered! I'm committed to adding this reflection time more consistently in my classroom. While testing is a part of our modern classroom, student progress is so much more. What a powerful force it is to recognize our own growth!