Shifting Mindsets Through Assessments: A Two-Part Dialogue
A TLH podcast project by: Carolina Julian, Jessica Nicoll, Luis Feliciano, and Theodore Kesler
As a group, we were curious about shifting assessment practices in our classrooms. Whether in psychology, math, early childhood education, or dance courses, we aligned in our goal to encourage students to take ownership of the learning. To this aim, we focused our energies into creating classrooms that foster deep listening, observation, responsiveness to our students, culturally-responsive teaching practices, self-evaluation opportunities, and co-construction of course content. We learned more about what each individual brought into the classroom–from names, to lived experiences, and areas of curiosity–and emphasized the need for our students to learn from one another and build a dialogic community through practical, active approaches. We also consciously structured our courses to include student leadership opportunities, through which students developed their capacities to ask “who has the power?”, and to take greater responsibility for their learning.
We chose a podcast as the best way to represent both our voices as instructors and our students’ voices as participants. Our first podcast episode delves into the underlying motivators for changing our practice, the conditions that allowed us to produce change, and the strategies we implemented to reconceptualize assessment. Some insights include: implementing a spiraling curriculum that enables us to return to key concepts with a deeper dive in our understandings; using methods of the “flipped classroom” for students explore content in accessible ways for homework, which opens class sessions for more exploration and workshop structures; and engaging students in co-constructing criteria to self-evaluate their performance and raise their awareness of their learning process. In our second podcast session, we feature our students as “critical witnesses.” They addressed two inquiry questions: 1. What has been their experience as a student in our courses? and 2. What have they learned about themselves from the assessment processes utilized in our classes? Our students’ testimonies also gave us important insights. They spoke of being more engaged in their learning and motivated to pursue their interests. Not all of them approached this shift in learning easily. Some of our students were so used to education as something that is imposed and done to them that they were more comfortable with a passive stance of “just tell me how I’m doing so I know what grade I deserve.” Active learning takes effort and commitment. Ultimately, as they engaged with our course expectations, they all expressed much deeper understandings of course material and bigger impacts as lifelong learners.