Assessment, Curriculum, Growth mentality, Learning Maps, Self-Regulated Learning

Rethinking learning maps #5: Timing feedback for better learning.

As I have documented my learning through my self-regulated inquiry course project this summer, I have…

  1. …begun looking at the big ideas on learning maps as big goals which students will reach by the end of the course.
  2. …revised my existing learning map for French 8 using the most recent curriculum update.
  3. …summarized research I’m using to align my day to day feedback with the learning maps and self-regulated learning.
  4. …used my learning to assess the quality of my existing feedback and formative assessment tools.

In this step of my process, I am looking at applying the self-regulated learning model to create a proposed feedback timeline. The most frequently used definition of self-regulated learning in the research I’ve read so far is this:

“…a general working definition of self-regulated learning is that it is an active, constructive process whereby learners set goals for their learning and then attempt to monitor, regulate, and control their cognition, motivation, and behavior, guided and constrained by their goals and the contextual features in the environment.”

Pintrich, P.R. (2000). The role of goal orientation in self-regulated learning. In M. Boekaerts, P.R. Pintrich, & M. Zeidner (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation (pp.451-502). San Diego, CA: Academic Press. Found here.

If I were explaining this to my students, I would show them a diagram like the one following, and use a practical example of a learning task to talk about what the process looks like for them.

The big burning question I had when starting this project was how to time a student feedback/peer observation/self-assessment process that aligns with the self-regulated learning process (above) and can be used in high school second language classes. I want these feedback mechanisms to act as supports to student success in showing learning in the Big Ideas from learning maps, expressed as distal goals. The best answer I have found so far comes from “Classroom Applications of Research on Self-Regulated Learning” by Paris and Paris:

“Instruction is not telling students what to do or what strategies should be applied. Rather cognitive instruction involves students in reflective discourses about thinking with multiple opportunities to talk about the task and how to solve it. Explanations, guided inquiry, scaffolded support, reciprocal teaching, and collaborative learning all foster discourse among students and teachers about how to use strategies appropriately and learn effectively. … More generally, the complexity of learning was recognized in the interactions among knowledge, skills, and dispositions for all disciplines. It is especially useful for students to be reflective and metacognitive at three times: during initial learning, while troubleshooting, and while teaching others to use strategies.”

Paris, S.G., & Paris, A. H. (2001). Classroom applications of research on self-regulated learning. Educational Psychologist, 36, 89-101.

The quote above gives three times when it is most useful for students to reflect on their learning and their thinking: during initial learning, while troubleshooting, and while teaching others to use strategies. One of the key points in the original article is that all of these have to do with strategies – as they are learned, practiced, and then applied. This research tells me that I need to make the co-teaching of strategies a regular part of my classes for all students. This last step is one that typically has not been added on to the assignments I’ve used in the past, but what I’ve learned so far tells me it should happen more often.

The feedback at each point along the way will look different, with less detail at the beginning and more detail at the end. Before students can teach a strategy to a peer, they will need a solid knowledge of it themselves, ways to judge progress and success in learning, and some examples they can give to help with understanding. Paris and Paris also give a list of cognitive instruction strategies I can incorporate into my classes: explanations, guided inquiry, scaffolded support, reciprocal teaching, and collaborative learning. At the beginning of French 8, I would typically use explanations and move into scaffolded support, but this list gives me two more instructional strategies to incorporate as my students gain confidence and knowledge. These strategies can apply to any second language modality, and would be most effective if I use them repeatedly but change whether the task involves speaking, listening/viewing, reading or writing.

The goal of self-regulated learning is for students to take ownership of their own learning. In order to get there, it’s critical for my students to be the ones choosing their strategies, trying them in a range of tasks, thinking about how effective their choices are, and evaluating their progress towards their goals. To see how this will work in practice, I’m returning to my revised 2019 version of my learning map:

The first big idea is that students can use a variety of strategies to support communication. The list of strategies is included in a footnote, and they include…

  • interpreting gestures, facial expressions, and body language;
  • listening to intonation and expression;
  • paraphrasing, reformulating, reiterating, repeating, substituting words;
  • using cognates (les mots amis), context, familiar words (les mots connus), images, parts of speech, prior knowledge, reference tools, similar words in first language, and text features.

Over time, students learn to use these strategies to support communication to understand and express meaning in speaking, listening/viewing, reading and writing. I also included this important piece of information: “Strategies will vary according to the situation – students will learn a range of strategies that are appropriate in a variety of situations and will learn to choose those that are most effective.” If students have to try the strategies, and learn to choose those that are most effective, then it stands to reason that along the way they will try things that don’t work so well. They will need to figure out which ones to use through reflection and formative assessments. As they are independently trying strategies, it’s critical that these assessments be formative, so that they can make better strategic choices for their summative assessments. My research and the curriculum document have shown clearly that strategies are central to second language learning. That means that by the time I get to the end of a cycle of reflections and formative assessments, my students need to have a space to record what strategies they considered using, which ones they tried, a point form example of what it looked like in action, and a rating scale to see how effective the strategy was. Over time, they will have this for a range of modalities so that they can compare speaking tasks to speaking tasks, writing tasks to writing tasks, and so on.

Here’s an example of a simple adaptation of one of the reflections I used in my previous blog post. The new version includes a space for the student to record specific examples of how they used the strategy listed. This is much better if recorded at the time of completing the task in question, because these types of details are easily forgotten.

The skills they will be choosing from are all listed on this document, and having a limited list is a good way to avoid overwhelming beginning learners. The thumb icons provide an easy rating scale, and a space is provided for an example. This type of assessment is easy to adapt for a range of tasks, and is intuitive enough that students can figure out how to complete it with a minimum of instruction. This allows more class time for discussion of strategies and their effectiveness, which is where the focus needs to be.

All of the formative assessments and feedback structures I use need to feed forward into summative assessments, and I will be looking at those too, ensuring that they have a strategy focus as well as incorporating grade appropriate content. Strategies tend to emphasize process over product, but in order to have a growth mentality, my students will need to take on some challenges and focus on using their strategies to produce content as well.

After having read an article on using corrective feedback in second languages, some of the information contained in it made me change the next step on my progress-tracking chart. Because feedback affects learning in speaking, listening, reading and writing differently, I have changed the next step to focus on gathering some specific information for how feedback should be used in those 4 core language modalities. In the reading I’ve done so far, I’ve learned that feedback should focus on the process of learning using skills and strategies (rather than products like a paragraph, story, conversation, etc.) to support learning effectively. Because the skills used in each modality are different, I will be digging into some research around self-regulation in the specific ways of demonstrating learning that are used in a second language class, finding specific examples of self-regulation of speaking, listening/viewing, reading and writing strategies, and putting together strategy-based reflections for those as well. Here’s what I’ll be reading next:

  1. Zeng, Y & Goh, C. (2018). A self-regulated learning approach to extensive listening and its impact on listening achievement and metacognitive awareness. Studies in Second Language Learning and Teaching 8 (2), pp. 193-218.
  2. Goral, D.P. & Bailey, A.L. (2019). Student self-assessment of oral explanations: Use of language learning progressions. Language Testing, Vol. 36 (3), pp. 391-417.
  3. Butler, D., Cartier S., Schnellert, L., Gagnon, F., & Giammarino, M. (2011). Secondary students’ self-regulated engagement in reading: researching self-regulation as situated in context. Psychological Test and Assessment Modeling, Volume 53, pp.73-105.

Once I’ve done that, I’m adding a step to the end of my process, which could be more like a new goal. I will work towards aligning my summative assessments with my learning maps, ensuring that students have opportunities to show their strategy use in their communication.

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