In previous articles and episodes, we discussed how the combination of goal-oriented practice and targeted feedback improves learning. Today, we will discuss strategies needed to ensure goal-oriented practice.
Conduct an assessment of students’ prior knowledge
When we talked about goal-oriented practice, we discussed the importance of targeting an appropriate level of challenge. To determine that, we have to assess properly students’ prior knowledge. Students come to our classes with a broad range of pre-existing knowledge, skills and competencies. You can conduct a survey, a test or an assignment to test the strengths and weaknesses of students to target better their practice at the right level. For example, a performance test will help you understand what students actually know, while a survey asking them about their level of knowledge will give you a sense of what students believe they can do.
Communicate performance criteria
When students are unaware of the performance criteria, it will be difficult for them to practise appropriately. Teachers can make use of various rubrics to communicate the performance criteria. A rubric is a scoring tool that represents the performance expectations for a given assignment. A rubric divides work into component parts and describes the work characteristics associated with each component.
Give more clarity about your goals in your course materials
If students do not have enough clarity on the goals they need to focus on, they will often rely on their assumptions to decide how they should spend their time. So, we should clearly articulate our goals for the course as a whole and for small assignments. When the goals are clearly articulated, students are more likely to use goals to guide their practice.
Give students multiple opportunities for practice
According to research, multiple assignments of shorter length are more effective in learning than a single assignment of great length or large scope. When students receive multiple opportunities, they get opportunities to practise skills and refine their approach based on the feedback they receive. A single opportunity is likely to be insufficient for students to develop the relevant skill sets and to incorporate feedback on the related tasks.
It is important to provide guidelines for the amount and level of practice required to attain knowledge and skills at the level we expect. Generally, teachers use two different methods to estimate the time students need to complete a task. The first method is to collect data from previous students to understand how much time they took to complete the assignment. The second method is by following the general assumption that students will take three to four times as long as it would take them to complete. It is worthwhile to carry out different strategies for estimation.
We have already discussed scaffolding in one of our previous episodes. Scaffolding refers to the process by which teachers give students instructional support early in their learning and then gradually remove it as students develop mastery. Providing scaffolding in complex assignments will be very helpful to students.
Giving examples of target performance
If we are talking about an assignment, we can show examples of how the final product will look like. For instance, we can show them past students’ works to help the current batch direct their practice.
Show students what you do not want
While it is important to clearly articulate the target goals, telling students what we do not want is also crucial. We can do this by showing common misinterpretations or by showing some pieces of work that did not meet expectations. Sharing samples highlighting various issues will help students understand common mistakes that students tend to make.
Refine your goals as the course progresses
Students will attain new skills as the course progresses, and their proficiency will change. It is important to add new challenges and refine your goals to meet students’ continually changing proficiency. It will enable students to apply their skills more quickly across diverse contexts.
Let us quickly recap the main points now:
1. Conducting an assessment to analyse students’ strengths and weaknesses is important in targeting an appropriate level of challenge.
2. We should articulate the goals clearly so that it guides students in their learning process.
3. We can use rubrics to communicate the performance criteria.
4. Students should be given multiple opportunities to practise to develop a relevant set of skills and improve by incorporating the feedback received from teachers.
5. Building scaffolding will help students in complex assignments.
6. Provide students with guidelines for the amount and level of practice required to master the knowledge and skills.
7. Giving samples of target performance will help students get an idea of what the final product of an assignment looks like.
8. Show students samples to help them understand common misinterpretations.
9. Refine the goals along the way to meet students’ changing proficiency.
In the next part, we will discuss strategies to address targeted feedback.
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