You’ve made the paradigm shift, and you know that grading and assessment need to support learning in our schools and classrooms. But how do you transform your classroom? How do you design learning experiences that are aligned with your standards, engaging for our students, and challenging for all who walk through your door?
Standards based culture is just what it says. All learning activities point right back to your standards and students can see the relevance of them. If a student asks you “Why are we doing this?” You need to be able to answer with much more than “Because I said so.” Students want meaningful work and practice. As educators we need to take a discerning look at our assignments, assessments and classroom activities to make sure that everything has a foundation in our standards.
In order to maximize student engagement we need to involve their passions and interests. Students should have a say in what they learn, how they learn, and how they demonstrate their learning. I have incorporated genius hour into my classes this year, and it has been amazing to watch my students express their passions. I have students running food drives, volunteering in the community, and raising awareness about animals on the verge of extinction to name a few. I also involve student voice by allowing them to choose various classroom activities. Right now, they are planning and executing review sessions for their classmates incorporating some of their favorite experiences from this school year. They have taken over our learning environment in such a positive way!
Challenge is essential to the learning process. Differentiation allows us to meet the needs of the varying readiness levels our students bring. Our gifted students need something very different from our students who struggle. We must put the proper supports for learning in place so that everyone has the chance to thrive. One size fits all assembly line instruction has to go! Students do not fit into the mold that we or textbook companies create. Instruction should instead be designed for them. We must be fair to our students and give them what they need each day, not what the curriculum guide demands that we cover.
Assessment takes diverse forms in the standards based classroom. It is intertwined into the learning experiences that we create. We are constantly checking for understanding and demonstration of skills, pushing our students forward and watching them grow. Assessment must cycle back and spiral, always moving our students forward while making sure that previous knowledge are skills are maintained. Assessment provides the opportunity to determine when extra practice is necessary, and when students need to delve further into the subject at hand.
Standards based learning is chaotic at times. We need to get used to a learning process that is student centered and hands on. Students need the time and space to collaborate and take risks. We must teach responsively, which means we should be prepared to throw out the lesson plan when our students’ needs require it. Students must know that they matter and are a key piece to the learning process. Learning is not done to our students, it is a process with their full involvement.
As Daniel Pink suggests in his book Drive, create standards based experiences that provide autonomy, purpose, and mastery for your students. They will flourish in your classroom.