True student ownership begins when the teacher looks at assessment from the point of view of the student. That is assessment for learning.
Robert Crowe and Jane Kenney define the student’s ability to understand when they are learning and struggling, as assessment. It directly relates to the learning as determined in the curriculum, and to the strategies as determined in instruction.
- How they will learn it
- How they will show they have learned it
Students can then identify-every step of the way-if they are learning and struggling.
It shows students know the value of consistent checking for understanding and when they need help.
What does student ownership look like, and sound like, when a student owns their part in assessment? What is the difference between a student who is simply doing or understanding assessment and one who owns how well they are learning?
Crowe and Kennedy describe the difference between a student who is simply doing or understanding assessment and one who owns how well they are learning as the following:
- A student is doing when they can state how they will finish the task in front of them.
- A student understands when they can explain how they are learning.
- A student is owning how well they are learning, when they can articulate if they are learning or struggling, and why, what to do if they are learning or struggling, and how assessing their learning helps them learn more.
Crowe and Kennedy present an example of what this looks and sounds like on a continuum of doing-understanding-owning in 5th grade math:
A teacher can move a student toward ownership of their learning by strategically deciding when to offer the following three learning practices:
|Strategic Learning Practices||Each student must respond to the following questions||Reflection: How often and how well do you offer these supports?|
|Instruction 1: Each and every student is supported by data that is used to monitor current understanding and provide feedback||Are you learning, and how do you know? Are you struggling, and how do you know? How does checking for understanding and receiving feedback support your learning?||Planned data checks are utilized to effectively monitor current student understanding of learning outcomes. Direct and specific feedback affirms current understanding of the relevant standards and measurable and achievable learning outcomes. Direct and specific feedback clarifies or redirects current understanding and builds toward mastery of the relevant standards and measurable and achievable learning outcomes.|
|Instruction 2: Each and every student is supported by data that is used to monitor current understanding and adjust as needed||Are you struggling, and how do you know? What supports might you need from the teacher? What strategies might you use to continue learning?||Planned data checks are utilized to effectively monitor current student understanding of the learning outcomes. Information from data checks is used to consistently and effectively adjust instruction, building toward mastery of the relevant standards and measurable and achievable learning outcomes. Data is used to determine next steps, including reteaching. Data is used to determine next steps, including acceleration.|
|Instruction 3: Each and every student is supported by data that is used to differentiate based on predetermined student needs.||What specific areas of need do you have? What supports might you need from the teacher? What strategies might you use to continue learning?||All differentiation is planned and meets the predetermined needs of the identified student or students. All differentiation aligns directly to and builds toward mastery of the relevant standards and measurable and achievable learning outcomes. Reflection on the purpose and value of specific differentiated supports is required of students.|
In Strategic Learning Practices, authors lay out the following:
- Clearly define each learning practice
- Describe what implementation looks and sounds like in the classroom
- Share teacher planning questions and offer examples of how students have been supported with these learning practices in various content areas and grade level
- Explain how these practices directly lead to increased student ownership
Strategic Learning Practice, Assessment 3 as Example:
Each aspect of Assessment 3 practice defined:
- Data is any information gathered to indicate if the student has any specific learning concerns.
- Differentiate is the teacher’s action to adapt or modify instructional materials, instructional strategies, or instructional processes to meet the specific needs of specific students, so that students can be supported in attaining the learning outcome.
- Predetermined includes all the data a teacher is privy to before planning the lesson. This could include a student’s IEP, English-learner status, previous assessment results, attendance, or anything pertinent in a student’s record.
- Student needs are those specific learning issues identified on an IEP, the language level and abilities of an English Learner, misconceptions discovered from previous assessments, and gaps due to missed instructional time.
What it looks like in Mrs. Kumar’s third grade social studies class, and hearing the class discussing the learning outcome on the board:
“Students will describe examples of human modification of the environment by creating a community change poster.”
There are visuals next to the words human, modification, environment, and community. The resource teacher, Miss. Smith working with students.
How much did students understand in class discussion? What happens when you ask them questions about their learning?
You: “What are you learning?”
Ana: “I am learning about how people make changes.”
You: “What kind of changes do they make?”
Ana: “There was a farm here, but now it is a school. People did that.”
You: “I see you have a chart next to you with pictures and words. Does that help you?”
Ana: “I am from El Salvador and still need to learn some new English words. Mrs. Kumar gives me this. If I see a word I don’t know, the picture will help me. This is a hard word for me-construction. The picture helps me know it. Sometimes I know the word, but not in English. Mrs. Kumar uses pictures a lot to help us. You can see some on the board.”
Brian: “The pictures help me too. I have trouble remembering stuff. The pictures help me remember bigger words, or academic words, as Mrs. Kumar calls them.”
You: “What other ways does Mrs. Kumar help you?”
Ana: “We sometimes get to show what we are doing. And we draw. I also talk with my friends a lot. We have to do that a lot. We also get help with reading. I can work with a friend who will read it with me and ask me questions. I get to answer and practice what he read before I try to read it.”
Brian: “Mrs. Kumar gives me a sheet of paper that tells me the information I need to remember. Mrs. Kumar sits with me and goes over this information until I can remember it. I also get to take the paper home and have my mom work with me. Mrs. Kumar and Miss Smith are nice.”
You: “How will this help you with your community change poster?”
Ana: “I like art. Sometimes we get to pick what we do. I’m going to draw. I have learned lots of ways our community has changed. I am ready to show it on my post. I will use the new words I have learned. It is good to keep learning new words.”
Brian: “When I work with Miss Smith, she will help me find pictures for the information on my sheet. I can use these on my poster. The poster will help me remember things about communities.”
When you ask Mrs. Kuma, are you surprised that these students were so forthcoming about their specific needs? And how did they gain the confidence to talk about the support they need?
Mrs. Kumar said, “It is very important that each of my students understands their unique strengths and areas of need. We talk about the importance of understanding how we learn. They know that they can ask me, Miss. Smith, or one another for help. I remind them that asking for help when we struggle is something that we all do. In fact, I tell my students that if they aren’t struggling, then they aren’t learning something new. We all struggle. This helps when I differentiate for different students. Everyone gets the help they need.”
Mrs. Kumar uses questions to help plan how she would offer support to her students. First, she had to determine the following:
- What skill will my students learn, and how will they demonstrate they have learned it?
Mrs. Kumar explains, “We are in our social studies unit on geography and human systems. The expectations for this standard call for students to describe examples of human modifications to the environment in the local community. I have a diverse group of learners in my classroom. I have four English-learners students, three mainstreamed special needs students, and a variety of learners throughout the class. I know that I need to take into account all my students’ needs in order to meet the learning expectations. Not only do I need to provide the right supports, but I also need to make certain my students know what the supports are, why they are there, and how to access them as needed. For this lesson, there are many ways my students could demonstrate their understanding. I chose a poster because it will allow them to demonstrate learning at a variety of levels. Some will cut out pictures to show human modifications, some will draw and label, some will include a longer explanation. All students will share their poster and be required to use as much academic language as possible in explaining their learning.”
Mrs. Kumar also had to determine the following questions:
- What current students data do I have to help plan the instruction?
- What specific student needs must be addressed?
Mrs. Kumar continues, “At the beginning of the year, I spent time reading each students’ cumulative folder. I met with the special education teacher and reviewed my students’ IEPs. I also reviewed my students’ English-language-level data. This provided me with a baseline on each student. From there, I have carefully assessed them along the way to ensure I understand how they learn best, their areas of strength, and their areas of need. I have really amazing supports in my school, and I have relied on them to continually grow my repertoire of differentiated instructional strategies specific to different students’ needs.”
Mrs. Kumar had to ask herself the following questions:
- How will I differentiate instruction based on specific student needs?
- How will I ensure that the differentiated instruction directly aligns with the learning outcome?
Mrs. Kumar answers are as follows:
“I have some students who are at the intermediate level in English and need more academic-language-support. I have students with IEPs who have a variety of identified needs-including reading comprehension deficits, short-term memory issues, and auditory-processing concerns. I know I have to find alternative ways for all of these students to access key content. I know I need to chunk the content and provide multiple, varied opportunities for learning.”
“At the beginning of this lesson, I introduced the objective. You will see that I included visual supports for any words that may be new to my students. After I read the objective, we discussed the words. From there, I had the students choral read the objective a few times, and then discuss it with their peers. I had my students seated in groups, so there were always students of varying levels who could support one another.”
“The next portion of the lesson was vocabulary. Vocabulary acquisition is a key skill that supports the English Learners. It is also a key skill that supports struggling readers. I know that I need to plan various ways for them to understand these words. Some of the words we acted out, for others we use illustrations. We also made connections to words and concepts we already knew. This was just the beginning. We will use these words throughout the lesson in a variety of ways. For those students who need it. I have created a picture definition chart that they will keep on their desk throughout the unit.”
“We also needed to read some text from a social studies book. I needed to plan how I would differentiate this to support all of my learners. We started with a whole-class discussion on what we thought the text would inform us about and why. I then had my students determine how they would access the text. Some read the text independently and completed a graphic organizer on the main idea and key details from the text. Some students listened to an audio recording of the text before reading. Some students worked with partners. And some students worked in a group with me. For today’s lesson, I predetermined who would work with me. My students understand their strengths and needs, and can often make the choice themselves. They are quite good at making the right choices.”
Mrs. Kumar wanted her students to use the skills in a variety of situations and help her students own this information, so that she could increase their probability of learning. To do this, she had to determine the following:
- How will I share this information with my students?
- How will I check that my students understand their progress toward the goals of the unit or lesson?
Mrs. Kumar says, “Every class has students with unique strengths and areas of needs. I think it is important that students understand what their strengths and needs are, as well as which ways they learn best. We constantly reflect on our learning. We discuss what we learned and how we learned it. We discuss ways we supported one another and learned from one another. I have a real community in this classroom. We continually discuss how we all learn differently and how when we all work together, we all get smarter.”
Mrs. Kumar wants to make sure her third graders understood the value of owning their own learning. Thus, she had to answer the following question:
- How will my students understand that reflecting on the assessment of their learning supports ownership of their learning?
Mrs. Kumar explains, “When we discuss as a class how we learn each day, we spend time talking about how that approach supports us. The strategies I employ most often with this class-audio and visual cues, total physical responses, chunking, modeling, collaboration, leveled materials, varied demonstrations of learning-are supported for all learners. But this can’t be information I keep to myself. I need my students to understand what approach is being utilized and why. They need to understand how they learn best. My students are getting stronger with this each day. They can tell you, more often than not, what their strengths are, where they need support, and what helps them learn best and why.”
Crowe and Kennedy suggest think of your students. Where do they fall on the doing-understanding-owning continuum? Think about the support they need from you to develop student ownership. How often and to what degree do you offer these supports? What impact do you have on student ownership?
Crowe and Kennedy cited John Hattie (2011): “Such passion for evaluating impact is most critical lever for instructional excellence—accompanied by understanding this impact, and doing something in light of the evidence and understanding.” (pg. 116)
Student ownership is defined as a mindset, according to Robert Crowe and Jane Kennedy, authors of Developing Student Ownership Supporting Students to Own Their Learning through the use of Strategic Learning Practices. Authors describe students with an ownership mindset who know they have the authority, capacity, and responsibility to own their learning.
The Look and Sound of Student Ownership
Crowe and Kennedy focus on increasing the opportunities for learning and increasing the opportunities for students ownership. Authors use practices in curriculum, instruction, assessment, and climate to do this. Crowe and Kennedy briefly shown how it works in curriculum. They define curriculum as what the student needs to know and do at the end of a lesson, unit, or course. Students must demonstrate an increase in ownership by clearly articulate answers to the following questions:
- What am I learning?
- Why am I learning this?
- How will I demonstrate I have learned it?
Teachers must begin by determining the answers to the following questions:
- What will my students learn?
- Why are my students learning this?
- How will my students demonstrate they have learned it?
Authors (2018) ask us to imagine walking into a third grade classroom and asking a student, “What are you learning today?” Now imaging hearing this:
“Today I am learning how to describe characters by their traits, motivations, and feelings. We are reading Charlotte’s Web, and I am describing Wilbur in chapter 3. I will know that I have done a good job taking notes on this by filling out my character map accurately. I am learning how to do this because, when we finish this book, I am writing an opinion essay on which character was most admirable: Charlotte, Wilbur, or Fern. I will take notes on all of the characters to use as details in my essay. I am checking with my friends in my group, because they will help me figure out if I have left any important information out of my notes. I will help them, because that’s how we help everybody in the class get smarter. —” (pg 1)
Can you imagine if that were the response of most students in your class? Do you believe a student could take this much ownership of their own learning? Crowe and Kennedy do.
Authors believe the most effective way for students to understand their role in learning is to take ownership, and it is a skill that can be taught directly and mastered. The diagram below shows student engagement vs student ownership.
An example of student engagement vs student ownership:
What is the difference between a student who is simply doing or understanding curriculum and one who owns what they are learning ? According to the authors, a student is doing when they can state the task in front of them or recite what they are doing. A student understands when they can explain the skill they are learning. A student owns learning is when they can articulate what skill they are learning, why they are learning it, how they will demonstrate they have learned it, and how they will use it in the future.
True success in education requires students to go beyond just doing or understanding school – they must own their learning. Crowe and Kennedy (2018) describe “a student who owns their learning can state what they are learning and why, and can explain how they learn best, can articulate when they are learning and struggling, and understand their role in any academic setting”. (pg 4)
Empowering Students to Take Ownership of Their Learning is a video that gives what ownership looks and sounds like.
Further information is provided on Student Engagement vs. Student Ownership in the article “What is the difference between Student Engagement and Student Ownership?“
Teacher’s Role in Student Ownership
I mentioned previously that Crowe and Kennedy’s focus is to increase students’ opportunities to learn and take ownership of their learning. This is done by developing a set of strategic learning practices offered to students daily.
Authors explain that students are offered support, as they have the authority, capacity, and responsibility to own their learning. So, how can teachers support students to cultivate an ownership mindset? Crowe and Kennedy believe by delegating their authority, capacity and responsibility.
Authors paint a picture of successful students who have the authority to make decisions regarding their own learning. This means students learn something new, and have the authority to determine what they need to master a certain skill, i.e., frequency and types of practice, specific opportunities to authentically apply learning, and more opportunities to transfer learning into new situations. Crowe and Kennedy point out that teachers must ensure that students have the authority to make decisions about how they learn.
Students have the authority to make decisions regarding their learning, but also need to own their learning. Crowe and Kennedy explain that students have capacity when teachers provide them with the knowledge and skills to challenge themselves and self-reflect on their growth. Authors believe these are the skills that lead to meta cognition.
Teachers provide students with capacity by supplying students with the skills needed to succeed, sharing why they need them, and explaining how they will use them in their current and future learning. So, once students have the authority to make decisions about how they will learn, teachers must ensure they have the capacity to analyze and reflect on their own learning.
Lastly, it is the responsibility of students to understand their role in their own learning and take responsibility for their success and mistakes. Authors point out that students cannot be held responsible if they have no understanding of what they are learning, how they will be taught, and how they will demonstrate their learning. Crowe and Kennedy emphasize that educators cannot demand students take responsibility for their own learning if they have not given them the authority and capacity to do so.
How does a teacher build the authority, capacity, and responsibility needed for student ownership? Authors suggest a teacher must model the thinking behind ownership, explicitly teach the skills of ownership, and most importantly, be willing to delegate the authority, capacity, and responsibility to the students.
Strategic Learning Practices of Student Ownership
The purpose of strategic learning practices is to offer students the opportunity to increase their learning by offering support for students, giving authority, capacity, and responsibility to own their learning. Crowe and Kennedy focus on practices in curriculum, instruction, assessment, and climate that increase the opportunity for learning and student ownership.
Here is a preview:
I will address the Strategic Learning Practices in each area in the subsequent Blog Posts.
Authors believe each decision regarding curriculum, instruction, assessment, and climate will impact other decisions, because these decisions cannot be made in isolation. Crowe and Kennedy point out that it is the teacher’s job to decide how these four areas work together to ensure that student learning is occurring. They emphasize these decisions support increase student ownership is paramount.
Take a look at my next blog How to Develop Students to Own What They are Learning.
The 6 Ways to Make Thinking Visible A Powerful Practice are, according to Ron Ritchhart and Mark Church authors of the The Power of Making Thinking Visible:
- Foster deep learning
- Cultivate engaged students
- Change the role of students and teachers
- Enhance our formative assessment practice
- Improve learning
- Developing thinking dispositions
Ritchhart and Church examine what is it about making Thinking Visible practices that helps establish this power? and how can teachers realize that power in their own classrooms?
Foster Deep Learning
According to Ritchhart and Church the two ideas-understanding and thinking- are core to conceptions of deep learning which is The Visible Thinking project, began in 2000, built on the preceding Teaching for Understanding project from the 1990s.
The authors define the meaning of deeper learning according to “The Hewlett-Packard Foundation defines deeper learning as the significant understanding of core academic content, coupled with the ability to think critically and solve problems with that content.” (Ritchhart and Church 2020 pg 6)
There are core elements of what it means to learn deeply. Authors states “Based on extensive research in schools and classrooms where deeper learning was occurring assert that deeper learning emerges at the intersection of:
- Mastery: the opportunity to develop understanding
- Identity: the opportunity to connect to the domain and develop as a learner with a place in the world
- Creativity: the opportunity to produce something personally meaningful
These opportunities are infused with critical thinking, grappling with complexity, challenging assumptions, questioning authority, and embracing curiosity-all core elements of what it means to learn deeply.” (pg 6, Ritchhart and Church 2020)
Erik Lindemann, 3rd grade classroom teacher, from Osborne Elementary school in Quaker Valley, Pennsylvania, observed “The story of our classroom learning is dramatically different when we use visible thinking routines. The routines build learners’ capacity to engage with complexity while inspiring exploration, As my students begin internalizing and applying these thinking tools, I become a consultant in their ongoing investigations. Curiosity and excitement fuel deeper learning as my students take the lead.” (pg 6, Ritchhart and Church 2020)
When using a thinking routine, teachers need to situate its use within the larger context of building understanding according to Ritchhart and Church. How does this particular lesson fit within the larger enterprise of understanding I am striving for? When teachers begin to focus on the goals of a particular lesson: With which ideas do I want students to begin to grapple? How can I push students’ understanding and move it forward? With these questions answered, the authors note, teachers are ready to identify the source materials and the kinds of thinking that might best serve the exploration of that material. Only then are teachers in a good position to select a thinking routine as a tool or structure for the exploration.
Cultivating Engaged Students
There are three types of specific engagement when it comes to cultivating engaged students:
- Engagement with others
- Engagement with ideas
- Engagement in action
We recognize that learning unfolds in the company of others and is a social endeavor. We learn in, from, and with groups. The group supports our learning as well as challenges that allow us to reach a higher level of performance. At the same time learning demands a personal engagement with ideas. Building understanding is an active process that involves digging in and making sense instead of receiving information passively. The authors note that sometimes this is identified as cognitive engagement, to distinguished from just mere engagement in activity. Authors emphasize that it is cognitive engagement with ideas that leads to learning.
When students explore meaningful and important concepts that are connected to the real world often means students want to take action. This will provide opportunities and structures for them to do so and encourages studentship and power while making the learning relevant.
Katrin Robertson, a lecturer at the University of Michigan, says she experienced it in her arts education class “For many years I used question prompts to engage my university students in discussing texts and it usually end up being asked-and answer sessions where students simply responded to me but did not speak to each other.” She made a shift when she was not content to blame her students for this pattern of behavior. “When I began using routines everything changed. Students were given space to make their thinking visible—. The room became energized with conversation. Students’ ideas blossomed, new perspectives were revealed, wrestled with, and shared in a multitude of forms —” she said. (Ritchhart and Church 2020 pg 7)
Changing the Role of the Student and Teacher
Teachers begin to see shifts in their role-play by teachers and students when they embrace the goal of making their students thinking visible and begin to make associate practices. Authors note that these shifts might be small at first but overtime has the potential to become seismic. When many teachers start using thinking routines they may be merely tacked on to the traditional transmission model of teaching, however, teachers must embrace this potential and cultivate it through regular, thoughtful application of making thinking visible process.
Mary has shifted her role from that of deliverer to orchestrator who works hard to establish a supportive culture and to create conditions for inquiry and opportunities for meaningful exploration. The dominant voice of the classroom has shifted from teachers to students. Her students are no longer passive receivers of knowledge but active creators, directors, and community members. Mary now celebrates this new level of engagement and seeks to promote it, empowering her students and creating a sense of agency.
Another way Making Thinking Visible change the role of the teacher, is that teachers become students of their students. They become curious about their students’ learning, how they are making sense of ideas, what they are thinking, and what ideas engage them. Making Thinking visible both allows and asks teachers to know their students in a different way. When focusing on students’ thinking, we become interested in how they come to know what they know, what questions they have, and what challenges they face. No longer, we see these challenges as deficits but as interesting opportunities for exploration.
Enhancing Formative Assessment Practice
Authors point out that formative assessment is not a task. It is a practice. “If you rely on and design formal tasks for the purpose of providing yourself and your students with “a formative assessment, chances are you have a weak formative assessment practice from which your students benefit little.” (pg 11 Ritchhart and Church 2020)
True formative assessment is the ongoing and embedded effort to understand our students’ learning according to the book Making Visible Learning Powerful. Authors note that it is a two-way street actively involving students and teachers in dialog about learning. Authors states “Formative assessment lives in our listening, observing, examining, analyzing, and reflecting on the process of learning. —It is driving by our curiosity about our students’ learning and the desire to make sure our teaching is responsive to their needs as learners.” (pg 11 Ritchhart and Church 2020)
If we want to know not just what students know, but how they know it we must make their thinking visible. Therefore, making students’ thinking visible is a formative assessment practice, according to the authors. Shehla Ghouse, principal at Stevens Cooperative School, explains, “Insights into student thinking provide teachers with invaluable information that can be used to plan next steps for individual students. It also helps us better understand the individual learner and ways in which to reach them more effectively to further their learning.” (pg 11 Ritchhart and Church 2020)
Improving Learning (Even when Measured by Standardized Tests)
Way Elementary in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, saw students’ performance on the new state writing assessment far outpace district peers who were using the same writing program with 82% of their students scoring proficient or above versus 66% in the district as a whole. Authors noted. Richhart and Church believe that the only difference was that Way was dedicated to being a “Visible Thinking” school starting in 2008. Both authors do not have new assessment data, but they have the comparative data between Way Elementary and schools having a similar student population in the district and using the same writing program. Authors said “What we think the data do tell us is the efforts to make thinking visible can, in the right hands and pursued over time, greatly enhance students’ performance – even on standardized tests” If we want to know not just what students know, but how they know it we must make their thinking visible. Therefore, making students’ thinking visible is a formative assessment practice, according to the authors. Shehla Ghouse, principal at Stevens Cooperative School, explains, “Insights into student thinking provide teachers with invaluable information that can be used to plan next steps for individual students. It also helps us better understand the individual learner and ways in which to reach them more effectively to further their learning.” (pg 17 Ritchhart and Church 2020)
Authors found that regular use of making thinking visible practices had a dramatic effect on the development of students’ meta-strategic knowledge, that is students’ awareness of the strategies they had at their disposal. Authors believe making thinking visible practices facilitate students’ development as thinkers and learners.
Developing Thinking Dispositions
The Visible Thinking Project’s main goal was to develop students as thinkers and learners by cultivating their dispositions toward thinking. Authors describe a disposition that captures one’s personal pattern of interaction with the world. The thinking disposition reflect who we are as thinkers and learners and it goes beyond merely having the skill or ability. It implies that an individual is also inclined to use those abilities, is aware of and sensitive to occasions for the use of those abilities, and is motivated in the moment to deploy the skills.
Students develop their ability to think and building up a repertoire of thinking moves when teachers use thinking routines. Authors recommend that by having the Understand Map posted in the classroom or in student notebooks for easy reference, students have a repertoire of thinking moves at their disposal. Sandra Hahn, a fifth grade teacher at the International School of Bangkok, remarked “My fifth graders became quite the expert in identifying the thinking moves they used and describing how it was used to help them find a solution to our weekly math problem. Some went even further to create a personal question prompt they could use in another situation to access that thinking move.” (pg 17 Ritchhart and Church 2020)
Authors states that when we make thinking visible as a regular part of the classroom through our use of thinking routines, documentation, questioning, and listening, we send a message to students that thinking is valued. It is infused in everything we do and becomes part of the fabric of the classroom. When students come to see the value in their thinking and become more inclined toward thinking as an important part of their learning this will change who they are as learners.
We as teachers will become better listeners, learn to encourage student initiative, and gain new insights into our students’ learning that help us plan responsive instruction. If we use make thinking visible practices actively and engage students with each other, with ideas, and in action than student will experience deep learning.