Building Learning Relationships through Goals, Feedback and Reflection

Today’s post is brought to you by Don Taylor, language arts and social studies teacher at Main Street Middle School in Montpelier and co-director of PLP Pathways.

In our last blog entry, we discussed a variety of opportunities to personalize learning communities through reflection and feedback, goal-setting, and the use of personal learning plans. In particular we addressed the idea that the incorporation of feedback and reflection into existing learning opportunities can help teachers develop a better sense of student understanding and learning dispositions. We wrote:

By employing Google Forms, Blogger, Kahoot surveys, or simply asking for student feedback on exit tickets, teachers can monitor student growth and learning. More importantly, through the development of thoughtful reflection prompts and activities, teachers can help students develop the skills necessary to monitor and evaluate their own learning. To take reflection one step further, teachers can use reflection or feedback data as discussion points for curriculum modification, to build classroom norms, and to promote democratic decision making.

Since writing this, I’ve been thinking more deeply about how teachers might consider integrating these exercises into real-time learning opportunities in order to build stronger relationships with students and to provide more effective instruction.

Integrated Goals and Reflection

Just as we monitor student understanding through the use of formative assessments, exit tickets, and reflections, teachers may also want to consider integrating student-goal setting and reflection on a daily basis within the learning context. Through the monitoring of this goal setting and reflection, teachers can use the acquired information to directly support students in real time and through that process, build stronger collaborative relationships with students.

For example, students in my classroom are currently working on collaborative projects that require a wide range of literacy and transferable skills. At the beginning of the project, students reviewed the standards for proficiency in writing, collaboration, and habits of learning. Students were asked to set short-term, project-based goals based on those proficiencies. Every few days throughout the project, students monitor their project-based goals and then spend a few minutes reflecting on their performance at the conclusion of learning activities.

In the adjacent example, you can see the proficiency rubric designed in collaboration with students.

As students move through the learning activities, they self-identify areas of proficiency, skills that need work, and areas of success. For example, this student identified two specific areas of proficiency (highlighted in yellow).

They then commented on how they exceeded the proficiency standard. This process can lead to rich learning experiences that are extremely beneficial for developing teaching practices. In particular, this practice can feed into reflection activities, goal-setting, and the collection of evidence for the student’s personal learning plans.

As the instructor, I visit with students, discuss their project-based goals using the PLP platform, and discuss the self-evaluation process. More importantly, I can use this information to review and develop educational supports I can provide to help them reach proficiencies. These discussions may evolve into brief mini-lessons with small groups or, as happened earlier this week, large group instruction to review critical literacy skills.

The essential understanding is that by having kids set short term goals within the learning activities or unit, reflecting on their performance, and through informal teacher monitoring, teachers can develop a more granular understanding of student needs and dispositions. Essentially, reviewing student progress towards goals informs my teaching practice which subsequently leads directly to the introduction or modification of learning activities that lead students to proficiency and creates stronger learning relationships.

When students recognize and realize that their goal-setting, reflection, and feedback is helping to shape the learning community, it is my experience that they become more active and engaged participants in the learning community.