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Goals and Assessment: A Useful 5 Minute Activity that Anyone Can Do – Tracy Dinesen, IWLA Vice President

13 Apr 2011 10:19 AM | Tracy Dinesen

We all wish we had a window into our student’s heads from time to time.  Are they understanding the material?  How are they studying?  How confident are they in what we are doing?  Are they prepared for the test?  We imagine what we could or would do with the information that we received; how we would improve activities, give more study tips, try just one more thing to help them understand even better.  Believe it or not, it is possible to get answers to these questions and it won’t require seminar training or a grant to accomplish the task.  It is simple, takes 5 minutes and will give both you and your students a wealth of information about their skills, preparation, weaknesses and strengths helping you guide them to better results and more effective learning.

                As teachers we use goals use to organize ourselves and communicate with colleagues and administrators but we don’t often share this with our students.  By informing our students of the goals in a way that they can understand and use for self-evaluation we can get answers to our questions and help them become aware of their own skills.  To accomplish this, I reformulate the goals into user friendly “I can” statements so that the students can evaluate themselves.  For example, during a unit on the stresses of daily life one overarching goal is: I can talk about my daily life and its stresses.   The students will say if they can do this Often, Sometimes, Rarely or Never.  In order to help them to be aware of all of the skills they must have in order to complete the goal satisfactorily, I also include sub-goals.  For instance, sub-goals for this task could include: I can use the vocabulary from the unit effectively and appropriately, as well as, I can conjugate verbs in the present tense including reflexive verbs.  Once the students have assessed their progress, we discuss strategies and resources that they can use in their studies and in their practice beyond classroom activities and homework.  I do this activity with my students generally two or three times during a unit, once at the beginning, once a week  later and once three or four days before the learning check or exam.  Additionally, even though the class has moved on to later units, I still have them evaluate their progress towards the goals from previous chapters.  This helps students to understand that while the in class unit may have ended, their progress towards the goals continue, as does our practice.

This method is used in Linguafolio and I have personally found it very helpful in organizing my activities and my course.  I can keep my focus on the goals, placing them at the center of the course and purposefully creating activities to help meet them.  It also helps me limit activities and information that may be interesting but, will not meet the goals of the unit.  In addition, the students are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses.  This helps them focus their studies and reminds them that they have responsibility and control in the learning process.  The instruction on study skills; outside of class practice and resources have helped my students at all levels incorporate more language and culture into their lives, improve their skills, and working towards personal goals with language.  In addition, language learning is being demystified because they are pulling from skills they use in other courses and in their English communications on a daily basis.   

For more information on this technique and strategies your students can use in their studies, visit http://linguafolio.unl.edu/.  You can create your own free account, print publications, get additional resources and find example “I can” statements for the language that you teach.  For sample handouts that my colleagues and I use in our Spanish courses or to report your experiences with this method, please email me at tracy.dinesen@simpson.edu.  I look forward to hearing from you!
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