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by Erica Fischer on Sep 16, 2014

Student Self-Reflection, Assessment, and Documentation

Last Thursday night, a Q&A-style #langchat set off a flurry of ideas! Participants tweeted their thoughts on ways to enable students to reflect on and assess their work. They also discussed ways to document student reflections and assessments over time and how to share them with parents. Langchatters had plenty of ideas on this topic, prompting one participant to say, “I’m going to idea jail tonight from all the stealing of ideas I’m doing. LOVE IT!”

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the conversation last week and to all the moderators, Cristy (@msfrenchteach), Amy (@alenord), Kris (@KrisClimer), Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell) and Laura (@sraspanglish), who participated in a lively #langchat hour!

Question 1: How do we prepare students to reflect on their learning in a meaningful way?

Participants began by considering how to help students meaningfully reflect on their learning. They emphasized the importance of setting clear goals, communicating clear expectations, and modeling reflective behavior.

    • Help students set goals

@SraSpanglish encouraged both instructors and students alike to set goals: “I think before they can reflect, [students] have to have established goals [‘which are instructors’] and/or their own.” @SenoraDiamond55 highlighted the need to set goals from the start: “Clear expectations and goals–from the start–are essential. Without a clear start, meaningful reflection is hard.” @ProfeCochran suggested one way to introduce goals early on: “I like to have students preview the goals [before the] unit, select [ones] that are important them and tell why.”

    • Communicate clear expectations

In addition to setting clear goals with students, participants recognized the importance of communicating clear expectations and showing them what proficiency entails. In the words of @tmsaue1, “[Students] can only reflect if they understand criteria. [They] need to know what proficiency sounds, looks, ([smells]) like.” To this end, many instructors find rubrics valuable. @CoLeeSensei wrote, “[Consistent] use of rubrics builds awareness of criteria!” and @trescolumnae added that rubrics can provide a sketch of proficiency targets: “Self-reflection, with proficiency descriptors [and/]or rubrics, is so important – especially during proficiency level changes.” Rubrics can be reviewed individually with students as a step in setting goals. @cforchini said, “I met individually with [students], assessed them, discussed [their] current level [using rubrics], [and] showed [them] where they [needed] to be at [the] end of [semester one].”

    • Model reflective behavior

Aside from just communicating goals and expectations, participants encouraged fellow instructors to model reflection in the classroom. As @CoLeeSensei said, “[Just] a thought but having a reflective teacher has to help in making students more reflective?” @SraCastle also saw this as potentially valuable: “I thought about sharing MY reflections to encourage students to do the same.” While teachers can reflect on their own experience learning a language, participants noted that instructors can also model reflective behavior through class activities. For example, @LauraJaneBarber suggested, “Do plus/delta as a class about an activity [asking students] ‘What did we do well? What do we need to upgrade next time.’” @Sr_Hache4 agreed that this “is a great activity for self-reflection. [Kids] are always their own best and worst critic.” @SECottrell added that instructors should also model reflection with a positive attitude: “[Prepare] students with an attitude of success- [We] start where we start, and that’s not failure.” She added, “Helping students understand [the] process of proficiency (novice [being] faster, [intermediate] slower) helps them feel more successful.”

Question 2: How do we prepare students to assess themselves in a meaningful way?

Instructors again underscored the importance of communicating expectations and presenting students with rubrics and sample work to familiarize them with different levels of proficiency. @CoLeeSensei highlighted the need to “set expectations for what we expect at different levels,” adding, “[Students] need to know how to place themselves on the grid.” Participants noted that students could learn how to assess their learning through exposure to rubrics (@SraSpanglish) and evaluated samples of strong and weak work (@SraSpanglish and @Sra_Arnold). @SECottrell wrote that “instead of telling students why their language is showing novice high, [instructors should] ask them why it is.” @getClasskick further commented that repeated practice doing self-assessment can train students in making reflection a habit: “[Make self-assessment] part of procedures. [It] won’t become [an] inherent part of [students’] thinking unless [they] do all the time, like anything else.” Finally, @SenoraDiamond55 wrote that she encourages students to honestly critique their work: “In [addition] to clear guidelines for reflection, I REPEATEDLY encourage my [students] to ‘be honest.’ It’s in their interest.”

Question 3: How can students document their reflections over time?

Participants discussed different ways of documenting student reflections. @SECottrell explained how this question had changed her thinking about portfolios: “[This] #langchat [question] is the first time I’ve thought about including self-reflection in a portfolio as well as evidence of growth.” Langchatters suggested a variety of online portfolio tools, including Linguafolio (@trescolumnae) and OneNote (@madamebaker). Some instructors turn to GoogleDocs as a space to store reflections over time. Other options were discussed, as well. For example, some instructors favored student journaling, and @muchachitaMJ suggested that students write a letter to themselves with what they hope to accomplish for each unit: Finally, @tmsaue1 shared Proficiency Trackers that allow “students to visually mark their performance levels over time”:

Question 4: How can we best communicate these reflections and assessments with parents?

Langchatters suggested ways to keep parents posted on student reflections and assessments. @RLavrencic wrote, “One of the best ways to communicate with parents is [face-to-face] with student’s work as an example.” @SenoraWienhold added that students could participate in these meetings: “[It] would be great to have students show parents [self-reflections] at conferences.” As an alternative to face-to-face meetings, @SrtaLohse proposed that “[students] could email parents [and] teachers about [their] progress in a bilingual format.”

Some instructors were more hesitant about sharing student reflections and assessments with parents. One participant said, “Devil’s advocate. Sometimes the less [you communicate with] parents the freer you are to do your job. Sometimes, too much [information] backfires.” Other instructors opted not to share too much with parents, preferring to hold students accountable for their progress. For example, one participant favored “[student] conferences instead of parent-teacher conferences,” adding, “It is all about them!” @tmsaue1 raised a question with regard to ownership of student reflections: “[Who] ‘owns’ these students self-reflections? [We] as teachers or the students?”


@SenoraDiamond55 summarized the dominant thoughts on self-reflection and assessment expressed by Langchatters: “Regular self-assessment (for all!) is key. So is honesty. But a helping hand with [the] terms of [assessment] is still essential.” Instructors noted that students should be trained in self-reflection and assessment. As @alenord commented, “[Students] have to be trained. [Performance and participation] are essential to learning JUST LIKE SPORTS. [You can’t] gain skill watching [from the] sideline!” With regard to sharing student reflections and assessments with parents, participants expressed a variety of views; while some encouraged communication and presentation of student output with parents, other instructors asserted that students own both their learning and self-reflection.

Thank You!

Thank you again to all of the Langchatters who contributed last Thursday and to Cristy (@msfrenchteach), Kris (@krisclimer), Amy (@alenord), Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell) and Laura (@sraspanglish) for moderating another lively #langchat hour! Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive.

If you have a topic you’re eager to discuss, send in your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

P.S. “Imagine when we ask for the #langchat T-shirt selfies!?!” (@CoLeeSensei) Get your shirt before it’s too late! Sale ends Sept. 21.

P.P.S. Help #langchat present at #actfl2014 by sharing what #langchat means to you:

Elementary in Spanish
Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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