When students receive feedback from diagnostics, we require that they set goals in skill and content areas where they need the most improvement. That way, they can focus their course work on getting stronger, rather than simply showcasing their strengths. Of course, this sounds a little daunting to them, and sometimes students need to understand why they have to do things they’re not good at. For me, that’s where the standards come in. I explain to students that standards are a list of skills and content information that they are expected to learn and demonstrate before they move on from my class. The diagnostics show us which ones they already have covered, and now they can put their energy toward meeting the other requirements. From that point, we can start to align their individualized goals with discipline-specific skill and content standards.
As you can imagine however, being asked to work on weak areas is difficult, and it asks students to go well outside of their comfort zones. The Inquiry Learning Plan (ILP) requires students to consider the processes they go through as they face that challenge. That way, as I explain to the students, they can understand how they learn, and they can apply it to other situations in which they will have to explore and discover new information. Students need language to describe and assess their successes and setback through this process though. At this point, teachers and students may look to many other standard sets to supplement content-area standards and help direct the student’s experience. AASL standards for the 21st Century Learner, ISTE’s National Educational Technology Standards, and NCTE Standards for 21st Century Literacy, among others, directly speak to the process of learning.
Given time to grapple with the language of standards, students work to understand two key components to each: the actions and the products. They examine the verbs to grasp what they will be required to do, and they examine the products to determine what evidence they can use to prove what they have learned. When focusing on the actions and products, that crazy academic language becomes less, well, standardsy and shifts to something they can actually wrap their heads around. Here is an example of a rewritten standard from my sophomore English class:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).
Reading #4: Interprets and analyzes authors’ messages by examining the figurative and connotative meanings behind words, metaphors, and other literary devices; reveals the impact of those devices and demonstrates the ways in which they contribute to and enhance the overall story and attitude of the speaker.
As you can see, they kept some of the original language, but they made it their own by using those words to describe things that made sense to them. Once students can pinpoint the actions and products of a standard, they see the connections between these state requirements and their goals. They can also have a solid base for designing activities that align with the “doing” and assessments that align with the “proving” of those goals.
What other strategies do you and your students use to link objectives to activities and assessments? Are there other sets of standards that you rely on to speak to the process of learning?