As we have explored assessment for learning in the New Learning course, the importance of student agency in learning has again been emphasised and particularly how Learning how to Learn (LHTL), Assessment for Learning (A4L), Learning by Design, collaboration and the explicit teaching of literacy strategies contribute to it.
Teachers in the Lanyon Cluster of Schools have been using and Assessment for Learning (A4L ) approach in which learning intentions and success criteria are communicated to students in student-friendly language at the class level and at the individual level through A4L goals. Teachers have also used Criteria/Quality (CQ) rubrics in which the highest quality is communicated to students before they undertake a task and are used in ‘comment only’ feedback. These have ensured explicit feedback to students about their assessment to inform future learning.
By incorporating more student friendly language in assessment feedback, opportunities are being created for students to understand more about what they have to learn and in turn how to learn it. This supports LHTL which also builds student agency. LHTL involves students thinking about learning and moves the focus from students doing tasks and activities to understanding what they have learned, how they have learned it, and where to next. Paul Black, Robert McCormick, Mary James and David Pedder (2006) found that Learning How to Learn (LHTL) was an important component of A4L. They stated that LHTL has the potential to develop more student autonomy and also promote lifelong and lifewide learning which is acknowledged as being necessary in knowledge economies.
One way LHTL is developed is by the explicit teaching of literacy skills through the knowledge processes of Learning by Design, eg students analysing the grammatical choices of authors in “Analysing Functionally’ and then making choices to position audiences in their own writing in ‘Applying Appropriately or defining a reading strategy such as inferring in ‘Conceptualising by naming’ and practising in ‘Conceptualising by Theorising’ by drawing inferences based on visual and linguistic cues.
Teachers have also been designing Learning by Design reading placemats and using spelling journals and Cooperative Reading to explicitly teach reading and spelling strategies so students deliberately and consciously select strategies to enable them to read and spell successfully, eg paraphrasing and summarising in research, predicting and inferring in reading narratives, generalising patterns and using visual strategies in spelling etc. In this way, students are taking responsibility for their learning and therefore demonstrating agency. They are motivated to learn, are actively involved in their learning and are conscious of the strategies they use.
In documenting Learning by Design, the learner side of the learning element provides opportunities to share learning designs with students. Some teachers have used this to create a big book to share learning goals with the students while other teachers have created display boards which focus on a particular knowledge process, eg a notice board contains examples of students’ work achieved in ‘experiential’ learning while another noticeboard focus on ‘conceptual’ learning. Through this approach, students develop a metalanguage about their learning, a first step to understanding the learning process, and which in turn develops LHTL.
Collaboration is also essential in this agency. Through collaboration students are involved in discussion which enables them to think more deeply about what they have learned, how they have learned it and what the next steps in their learning are. In this way collaboration underpins LHTL and A4L.
A future direction is how we develop peer and self-assessment. As well as making assessment more manageable for teachers, peer and self assessment will promote metacognition, self-direction, and, collaboration through peer discussion. Agency also moves from the teacher to the students as the assessors and judges of quality. Technology will be very important to support this shift as it will enable students to share their work and provide feedback through supportive learning communities.