The following tips are designed for teachers and students to get the most from the Check-in experience.
Nora Abushakra is a highly regarded middle school educator and Social Studies teacher in South Carolina. She has been a leading exponent of the use of the Verso Check-in tool for the past 18 months and has been hugely influential in aligning the use of the tool with her district’s cycle of professional inquiry and her individual school’s continuously evolving pedagogical framework. As a highly reflective practitioner with a keen interest in student voice and agency, Nora has recently started to experiment with the use of single point rubrics as a tool to support the student reflection process, and as a means to give students more ownership of their learning. In doing so she aims to support students in finding and applying their voice to the learning process with greater precision, ensuring that the feedback students provide is specific, accurate and actionable. In this article, Nora shares her exploratory work and her ongoing professional quest to translate educational research into effective classroom practice.
As educators, we all know that it is our duty to facilitate learning for all of our students. We do our best to plan activities that ensure that we are doing just that but, in the end, are we asking students to just “do” tasks or are we asking them to “learn”? Professor, John Hattie, wrote that a student’s “role is not simply to do tasks as decided by teachers, but to actively manage and understand their learning gains” (2012). Hattie goes on to say that this is a challenging task for educators. It requires the educator to introspect their own practice and empower students to do the same work on their own. However, if students are unclear about the purpose of their learning, the activities that are planned to help them get there are all for naught. That is why I appreciate Phil’s analogy of learning as a journey. It truly is and I will soon point out how it applies to Professor Hattie’s discussion above.
For a moment, imagine you have been told you must travel to a new city and that you must reach it by the next day. You have never traveled there and you do not know how far it is nor the directions you should take. What obstacles will you face along the way? Do you need a car or is public transportation available? The stakes are high, though, so you have no other option but to attempt to make it there. Feels hopeless, right? If you were just handed the keys to help you reach your destination, would you instantly become more likely to arrive on time? Likewise, we cannot expect our students to be successful on their learning journey if we do not tell them where they are going and equip them with the tools and resources to help them get there.
Returning to Professor Hattie’s quote, he reminded us that the goal is for students to be able to manage and understand their learning gains. Rubrics and reflection are the means to that end. Rubrics help students to navigate their own path, while reflection aids them in understanding where they are at any given point and what they need to move forward. Together, they provide a roadmap to success.
Recently, I was teaching a unit on urbanization. The learning objective, or final destination, for the unit was to understand the impact of urbanization on a global level. Planning backward, my content area team and I decided on the following success criteria, or rest stops, along the way. We wanted students to be able to:
I created the rubric below for the students to track, or manage, their progress toward owning their learning. I gave each student this rubric at the beginning of class and went over it in detail.
The left hand column presents students with a series of success criteria in order of increasing complexity. The right side of the rubric gives students a space to reflect. Take note that it asks students to write what they need to be able to advance to the next level. You may be thinking that you have been asking students to assess their own level of learning all along. However, I invite you to think about the difference between the data you have collected as a result of your practice and the data you could potentially receive from these rubrics.
Why is this better? Most students, when asked to assess their learning, are going to only think about whether or not they have completed the task at hand, rather than where they are on their learning journey . Their reflections are too frequently focused on completion and compliance. With this approach I provided students with a roadmap that would allow them to take control of their own learning. As this is not a task list, students are focused on whether they have mastered the learning, making their reflection feedback more valuable.
With this approach I am beginning to shift balance in my classroom. Students are now able to describe their current level of knowledge, skills and understanding. They can use the rubric throughout the lesson to monitor their progress and self and peer-assess against clearly defined and understood learning goals.
Having the data in one place and students being able to clearly and accurately articulate their learning has been a game-changer for me.
The student feedback data allows me to see if the strategies I am employing are working. I can use student feedback to adapt next learning steps or make micro adjustments to my practice and plan interventions to meet the needs of every student more effectively.
I leave you with a snapshot of additional reflection data taken using Verso check-ins. The first is prior to my use of rubrics to inform reflection and learning, and the second was taken at the end of this unit. As you can see, the impact has been phenomenal. Not only has the process managed to connect students more closely with their learning, it has also given students the means to employ a shared language to seek feedback and discuss their learning with their peers and myself .
Check-in data also has revealed that students are now far more able to evidence their self-assessment using details of what they had learnt, and students who were confused could precisely pinpoint the stage of the learning journey where they needed support.
This longer video goes into detail about the importance of clarity when planning to teach remotely and offers some suggestions on how teachers can set students up correctly for success when they are working from home. It goes through strategies that can help teachers to get students to answer the 4 key questions for students identified by John Antonetti and looks at how Verso can support teachers to create and deliver engaging remote lessons.
One common issue raised with using Google Documents or Google Classrooms for remote or blended learning, is how to get students to engage with each other and share ideas. Google Classrooms is great for sharing files but doesn't allow students to work together in a truly collaborative way, share ideas or engage with the lesson materials. However by combining your Google account with your Verso account you can.
This example demonstrates how teachers can combine Verso with a collaborative Google Doc or Google Classrooms to allow a richer and more engaging Google experience. It shows how to link your Verso account to your Google account and then how to use Verso and Google together to allow students to respond to engage with each other's ideas and provide visibility of individual thinking to the teacher.
The Victorian Student Representative Council (VicSRC) and Verso Learning are proud to announce the launch of a free student check-in tool for teachers ready for Term 4 of 2020. The tool has been co-designed by VicSRC students across Victoria to give all students a greater voice by making it easier for teachers to check-in on student learning progress and understand student emotional wellbeing, either in class or whilst learning at home.
The check-in tool is free for individual teachers to use with their students and accessible from any mobile device or computer. From today it is available at https://checkin.versoapp.com. To reduce the workload for teachers the customisable tool has been aligned to over 5,000 Victorian F-10 curriculum questions covering most subject areas. In under 30 seconds teachers can send students a Verso check-in to gather feedback on their learning progress, where they need help, what they would like to do more of next lesson and how they are feeling about their learning. Teachers can access the feedback via a simple and colourful dashboard that enables them to quickly gauge individual students' learning and emotional needs and identify those who need extra support and attention.
CEO of Verso Learning Colin Wood said working with the Victorian Student Representative Council (VIC SRC) to co-design and build the Verso student check-in tool had been a fantastic experience and demonstrated the importance of listening and responding to student voice. “The students were so excited to see their ideas built into a check-in tool that is used by teachers around the world, and positively impact the wellbeing of students not just in Victoria but across the globe”. During the co-design process, students highlighted the difference between classes in which they were given opportunities to provide feedback and felt their ideas and opinions were listened to where they felt ‘motivated, inspired and engaged’. In classes where they were not they reported feeling “frustrated, bored and disheartened.” One feature specifically requested by students was a help button to confidentially ask for one-on-one support from their teacher if they feel they are not coping or need help. As one student commented “having an easy and private way to request help from a trusted teacher when you really need to is vital to feeling supported and listened to.”
VicSRC’s survey and report about remote and online learning showed that students wanted more regular check ins from teachers to support their wellbeing, and the opportunity to give regular feedback to teachers about their learning. In addition, students wanted a greater say in their learning journey and more opportunity to give input on the direction of future classes. These themes of supporting positive mental health and wellbeing at school and increasing student engagement also featured prominently at the 2020 VicSRC Congress.
VicSRC teamed up with Melbourne based Verso Learning to build a check-in tool to support teachers to regularly check-in with students either in class or when working remotely. Executive Officer of VicSRC Nina Laitala said “Working with Verso, VicSRC was able to design an innovative check-in solution that will reduce teacher workload, whilst helping support Victorian students emotional wellbeing, giving them greater voice over their education and help teachers better adapt lessons to the needs of the students.”
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