Freshgrade's blogpost on how students are the best sources of Information about student learning.

Students are the Absolute Best Sources of Information About Student Learning

Article written by: Kathy Cote’ Rogers, and her 7th + 8th grade students Ava, Hayden, and Raven. 

As a teacher, I have designed numerous formative and summative assessments attempting to measure student learning. I have spent countless hours creating, compiling, disaggregating and analyzing test scores and achievement data in order to glean information that would help improve my instruction. But all my efforts, while well-intentioned, couldn’t tell the complete story of my students’ progress. There was always something missing. Today, I realize that I have been looking in all the wrong places for information about student learning. 

It has become clear to me, that a student’s honest reflections are the best indicators of their progress. I am convinced that self-assessments of their own learning really are assessments for learning.  Amy Fast is an education commentator who states that, “Ironically, the most under-utilized stakeholders in improving the effectiveness of our education system are our students themselves. When it comes to evaluating how students are doing in their learning, it turns out student self-assessment is possibly the most effective means by which we can measure their growth.” This view reflects my experiences with my students. I believe that the absolute best resource for information about student learning is the students themselves! Of all my modes of assessing and evaluating student learning, I have come to rely most heavily on student self-assessment and reflection to tell the story of a students’ learning journey.

Ask the Students About Their Learning

In this blog post, you hear from three of my current students, two eighth graders Raven Savage and Hayden Thompson and a seventh grader, Ava Taylor. These students are enthusiastic users of a digital portfolio system, FreshGrade, which allows us to engage in conversations about their learning. These students share their insights and opinions about learning in a classroom that is standards-based,  focused on student ownership and increasingly uses descriptive feedback instead of traditional grades.

Student Ava writes for Freshgrade's blogpost on how students are the best sources of Information about student learning.

Ava

GRADE:

7

Uses FreshGRADE FOR:

German Class

ABOUT AVA:

German Scholar Student

I am a seventh-grade German scholar and I am writing this blog post to use my voice to communicate and emphasize the importance of teachers letting their students weigh-in on their own learning. I think it’s important that students have the chance to reflect on their performance in a class. I use FreshGrade for my German class and I absolutely adore the amount of freedom that I have. I really feel in charge of my own learning. In my other classes, however, we are trained to gobble-up vast amounts of information within a certain time limit, and then spit it all out on a test. That’s not exactly how information is going to stick in a child’s mind! When a teacher loosens the reins and lets her students share how they think they did on a learning target, it can give students a sense of pride to know that they can say they did well, or if not, a drive to try harder next time. I even set goals for my own learning and I control the homework I do. That way it isn’t all just busy work that takes a while but doesn’t mean anything to me.

When I have the power to challenge myself, I take that opportunity and run with it. I don’t know if that’s what most students would do, but I love it!  It really is great that so many students in my class can learn at their own pace and have the relief that it won’t be for a grade at the same time. For example, in German class, we play outside with sidewalk chalk rather than labelling a worksheet. We sing songs and play games that help the material stick. This all goes to show that any student can excel as long as they are given the opportunity. Of course, we still have time constraints, but they are a lot more relaxed and when we do our projects, we can always rest assured that it will at least be fun, and we know we can redo and resubmit our work and FreshGrade is a big part of all of this.

This website is such a great tool because not only do we have the ability to communicate to our teacher openly, it shows that a teacher doesn’t have to be traditional to give her students a successful learning experience. We have fun with the experience of learning and we can be proud of our accomplishments.

For me, I happen to know that the main reason that contributes to the cliche’ feeling of “hating school” is that it just isn’t all that interesting! But when a teacher helps make it fun and exciting and lets the students push the gas while she steers, learning is actually a lot more rewarding. No matter how long it takes for a student to learn something, when we do, it leads to great things! I believe that by using FreshGrade in my German class, we have only just begun a learning revolution. We are changing the face of education as we know it.

Students Raven and Hayden write for Freshgrade's blogpost on how students are the best sources of Information about student learning.

Raven and Hayden

GRADE:

8

Uses FreshGRADE FOR:

German Class

As eighth graders, we have been taking German for two years, German being the only class that currently uses FreshGrade. We upload videos, documents, and other benchmarking assignments that show our progress in the class. We can compare our German skills from the beginning of 7th grade, one and a half years ago, to the present. It also allows for communication with our teacher. We have ongoing conversations about our daily practice with German and other conversations about specific skills. Not having grades lets us talk to our teacher about how we gauge our own work and progress instead of just how one assessment rates us. When there is not enough class time to discuss projects, we can talk via FreshGrade and our teacher can get back to us with the information we need. A gradeless classroom gives us more time for learning and personal growth and cuts out competition and stress.

We learn more in this class than in other classes. We spend more time on really retaining the information rather than just memorizing it for long enough to take the test and move on. We also retake or redo assignments until we have mastered and fully understood the information, whereas in other classes we take an assessment just once and if we don’t do well or understand the information, the class moves on. Most students, including the authors of this blog post, don’t even really remember what they learned at the beginning of the school year.

Using a digital portfolio to have conversations about our learning lets us focus on continually hitting our learning targets rather than being assessed just once on a learning target. FreshGrade is a big part of our gradeless classroom; it enables a place to assess our own learning without judgement or stress. It also allows our parents to see how we’re doing, and it provides an accurate representation, not just a letter grade. It shows the big picture and how well we can meet each target, rather than an inaccurate average all of our targets.

If schools around the world decided to make education about learning and not about grades, we think that students would enjoy and participate in school more. If teachers made school more about the learning and enabled the students to assess themselves, we feel like students would be able to learn more. School doesn’t focus on retaining information that is taught. For most students, the main focus of school is on getting an A to get into a good college or get a good scholarship or maybe simply to make parents happy. But this is the system’s fault and not the student’s. We don’t have a choice, and for some, the only path to college is through getting a scholarship. We strongly believe that if more teachers were open to going gradeless, school would be a better environment in which to thrive and learn.

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