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Students Taking Charge of Their Learning

In the field of data use, there is some attention paid to how students use their own data.  Probably not enough attention, but attention nonetheless.  In fact, I’m at SXSWedu this week and have already noticed a clear interest in it.  Some of it’s not very deep – just ways to show the kids what their data are and where they need to go (I imagine the kid saying, “you know, if I knew how to get a 90, I would.”)  But some of it’s about learning process.  And I like that a lot.

My daughter is in 4th grade.  Every few weeks, she’s assigned to bring home work samples to present to us.  One from math, reading, social studies, science, etc.  She’s to show us her work, related to the following questions:

Which assignment do you feel shows your best effort?  Why?

Which assignment shows your growth in learning? Why?

Which assignment would you like to improve?  Why?

In addition, there are about 15 questions to which she’s to rate from 1 (never) to 4 (always).  Things like, “I care about doing my best,”  “I turn in my work on time,” and “I listen to others’ ideas.”  Finally, there’s a question that asks the student to write a personal goal for the upcoming weeks.

This is great.  She’s not just saying, “here’s my work.”  She’s describing the work.  She’s required to articulate a variety of aspects: how she does it, how she feels about it, and how she collaborates about it. 

But most importantly, she’s being taught to examine her learning process.  She’s compartmentalizing different aspects of learning, breaking it down into manageable pieces.  Each piece has its own life, so she can zero in on some aspects and make nuanced changes if needed. 

What does this have to do with data?  The way I see it, it’s threefold: 

(1) Of course, her work is data.  But so are her answers to these questions.  They’re data that help her parents, her teachers, and herself know more about how she’s learning. 

(2) Education data aren’t particularly useful unless we also examine the processes that produced those data.  If we just look at the outcome of my daughter’s work, there’s not a lot to say.  She’s doing great in all of her subjects.  But even with her high scores, there are some areas that aren’t as strong as an overall grade might indicate.  If they go unchecked for long enough, they could be a problem.  Those nuances are important. 

(3) This assignment is student-based.  These are areas that my daughter herself identified.  And plans that she herself identified about how she can get better.  That’s an empowering use of data and process.

A data-based examination of the learning process that empowers the student to examine their own process and strategize on how to get better.  Count me in.

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