A problem I’ve been kicking around for a while is how to give my students clearer feedback on their learning progress. In a standards-based system this can be a challenge, because feedback is more detailed than a single percentage grade; a single assignment often covers more than one learning goal and therefore is given multiple grades. This detail can be very useful to the student for guiding their learning, but only if they are able to take it all in and manage the feedback in a positive way.
Unfortunately, most grade books out there haven’t mastered standards-based grading, making it difficult for both teachers to enter grades and students to access and understand them. I know this from first-hand experience: the past two years my middle school has been struggling to use Perason’s PowerTeacher Gradebook for our standards-based grading (and to think they claim it’s the “next level in classroom technology”- ha!). There may be some helpful updates on the way at some point- I haven’t fired up this year’s version up yet- but instead of waiting around for Pearson to solve your problems, how about taking matters into your own hands?
Learning logs to the rescue! A learning log is simply a record of a student’s learning progress, made by the student, for the student. This is not a new idea- progress charts have been around for eons, in fact it was this picture from Robert Marzano’s classic book The Art and Science of Teaching that inspired me:
What I’ve done is taken the old pen and paper progress chart and created an updated digital version using Google Sheets. Here’s how it works: Each time the students complete an assessment, whether it’s self-assessed (like a quick formative learning check we do in class often) or teacher-assessed (like a homework assignment or test), they record the results in their learning log document. The learning log has a different sheet for each standard being assessed, so if needed they can enter multiple grades for a single assignment. Here’s an example of a learning log I’ve created for the Using Data standard in our Science Inquiry unit:
After the student fills in the date, their score (we use a 4-point scale at my school), the name of the assessment, and the type of assessment, a couple things happen. A “badge” appears depending on their score (kinda hokey I know, but 6th graders still lover stickers, and I appreciate the visual aspect of it). Their results also automatically graph on a progress chart next to the log. Here’s an example of that chart:
Neat- but the most important part of this process is what comes next! After logging their results, I’m planning on having my students write a short comment about their learning so far. What are they still having trouble with? What can they do to improve? Do they feel like they have mastered the skill yet? I’ll need to model these kinds of reflections at first, but hopefully the process of logging their learning will do two critical things:
First, the mere act of recording and charting learning progress reminds students that learning is all about growth. I just read Carol Dweck’s book Mindset this summer, and it rams home again and again the importance of teaching students a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset. Charting progress and reflecting on ways to improve implicitly teaches students that they aren’t expected to “get it” right away, that what’s most important is where you end up, not how quickly you get there.
Second, learning logs teach students to be more responsible for their learning. You’ll notice the Learning Goal description on the learning log is a blue hyperlink- clicking on that link takes students to the unit Study Guide where they can find several different resources to help them learn (or re-learn) that skill:
I’m planning on rolling these out this school year as part of my student’s digital notebooks. The learning logs will become one of the sections for each unit, so students will have easy access to the document to edit it. The progress charts can also be published and inserted in their notebook, which I think would be a helpful reminder. I’ve even toyed with a chart that combines their scores for multiple standards, so with one look they can see how their overall learning is progressing:
This is still in rough draft form, so I’d love feedback on how to improve it. Here’s the link to the template learning log, be my guest and make your own copy to play around with or use with your students!