The Evolution of Learning Targets and Self-Assessment in Algebra 1

In earlier research with my TRC 4.0 team (2018-2019), we researched how to help students assess their level of understanding of learning targets and success criteria through the use of Learning Target Trackers.  In our final summary paper, we wrote, “If students are challenged by identifying their weaknesses, then it is difficult for students to understand the necessary actions needed to increase their understanding.  By reflecting on their own assessment, they could take the corresponding steps to understand the learning targets.”  We had moderate success with the Learning Target Trackers, but I was never happy with the success criteria that I wrote because I felt it was simply a list of steps that students were required to follow to master that learning target.  

This was exactly the opposite of my philosophy of teaching, where I wanted students to solve problems in as many different ways as possible and through multiple representations.  I was sending mixed messages leading students down a rabbit hole when completing the Learning Target Trackers while encouraging them to solve problems in as many different ways possible during class.  

Below is a learning target with success criteria from my previous work in TRC 4.0.  

I was looking forward to revisiting this research topic during TRC 8.0.  My first step was to re-write the learning targets and success criteria, keeping in mind that I do not want the success criteria to be a simple procedural list of steps for students to follow.  This was more difficult to do than I thought.  

Below is a picture of the revised learning targets with success criteria. 

After my Algebra classes completed this Learning Target Tracker, I asked them to complete a quick survey. The first question was, “Is it helpful for you when a teacher posts the learning targets and success criteria every day in class?” I also asked them to explain the choice that they made. Below are the percentage of respondents who answered “yes”, “no”, or “unsure”.  

It is interesting that the majority of the students in every class said “yes”.  When looking at my Inclusion class results separately, they overwhelmingly said that seeing the learning targets were useful. 

One of my favorite comments was, “Yes, it shows you the criteria you want to try to achieve or get the basics down before class ends.”  Because the results are so positive, I have tried to incorporate more discussions about the learning targets.  I posted and read the learning targets and success criteria every day at the beginning and end of class.  I also repeated the learning targets when we reviewed a homework problem that correlated to it.  Before every assessment, I gave the students a list of learning targets and success criteria that will be assessed.  We read each statement, and I asked the students to give me a thumbs up, thumbs down, or in the middle to get a quick formative assessment of where they think they are before they leave class.  I have given them exit slips that focus on the vocabulary used in the learning targets and success criteria.

My research team and I have discussed how to include the homework (Review/Preview) into the Learning Target Tracker hoping that our students would see the importance of completing it.  I have recently edited my Learning Target Tracker again to include a column where students can place homework problem numbers that correlate to each learning target.  I plan on having my students reflect on their homework for the first few minutes of class with their teams (when I typically check to see if they completed it) and discuss each homework problem to determine what learning target was being assessed.   I am hoping that, even if they did not complete the homework, they could still look at a problem and determine what learning target is being assessed.  

My work on writing and using learning targets and success criteria has evolved and will continue to do so. My hope is that this work will help my students evolve into better mathematicians!

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