At the start of the school year, all of the teachers at Navin Elementary, in Marysville, Ohio, conducted surveys and distributed questionnaires to begin building personal learning profiles for each of their students. In the spirit of continuous improvement, teachers have recently revisited the process, considering what worked, what didn’t, and what they could do differently.
Heather MacLaughlin, Staff Development Coach with Marysville School District, celebrates not only educator commitment to the process, but also students, who may never have engaged in activities like this one before.
“Our kids don’t really know themselves, their learning styles or preferences, in the way we’d hoped they would,” says MacLaughlin, who notes that some of the feedback received from teachers was around student’s not really being sure how to answer the questions, or not answering them in a way that was helping them to get where they needed to be in terms of personalizing experiences. “We were asking our kids to do something that they didn’t have the foundational skills to do. If we want our kids to make informed decisions about their preferences, we have to cultivate an awareness of those preferences first.”
Some educators have moved away from the survey toward reflection journals, asking their students at the end of each week to reflect on what they’ve worked on, and how they’ve worked. Did they work alone? In groups? What challenges did they encounter? How did they get help?
“With these reflection logs, we’re giving kids the opportunity to get some baseline data on themselves,” MacLaughlin says. Teachers can then use these logs to begin shaping their instruction, and to open up lines of communication with the student about what’s working and what’s not working for them in the classroom, and in their approach to their learning.
With younger students, MacLaughlin notes another challenge: kindergarten and first graders are even less ready than their older peers to do this kind of self-reflection, and their teachers are putting their heads together to design experiences – such as modeling voice and choice – that will build the skills students will need in later years to be able to reflect critically on their own learning.