With 15 years of experience in learning self-regulation through innovative projects such as "Paths to Quality/Lasting Teaching/Knowledge" (2003 - 2005) and the development of the "Didactics of Knowledge Assessment" (2006 - 2009), I have developed a model of learning and teaching. This model incorporates insights from formative assessment, Visible Learning, Choice Theory, and transformational learning. It respects our cultural environment and tradition. I successfully implemented the model in my own practice and have been spreading it to other schools across Slovenia and beyond for at least 15 years. The teaching model has grown into a transformative process for schools.
Through the learning of teachers who co-create groups for professional and personal development, we also create a safe environment for pupil learning. Trust, connection, and experience-sharing contribute to the growth of interconnected communities with good relationships and integrity.
I began disseminating the model through seminars on Formative Assessment of Knowledge at the Institute of Education. In recent years, I have independently conducted seminars at schools, presented, led institutes, organized conferences, webinars, communities, and knowledge markets.
Many teachers are experimenting with and successfully applying the model with their personal touch, as D. Wiliam rightly puts it: Each person must integrate changes into their practice in their own way. We need time and the support of practitioners and researchers. (Wiliam, 2013)
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Basic Information That Helped Me in the Self-Development Process
CONSTRUCTIVIST FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT
- Interaction between pupils, parents, and teachers that influences the formation of goals, success criteria, learning recommendations, knowledge verification, and presentation.
- Success criteria for achieving goals take individual needs into account.
- Teaching is meaningfully connected to pupil learning.
- Learning concludes when both the teacher and pupil are satisfied with the achieved outcome. When they believe they have reached the optimum in a given space and time, they conclude with shared reflection, evaluation, or summarization of formative assessment in the verification process, complemented meaningfully by external forms of assessment.
- Assessment is a joint analysis of the value of achievement.
(Komljanc, Development of Assessment Didactics in Didactics of Assessment. ZRSŠ 2008)
PRINCIPLES OF FORMATIVE ASSESSMENT
- Diagnosis of prior knowledge (weak and strong areas).
- Providing links between learning levels with instructions for improving knowledge.
- Offering timely feedback.
In this process:
- We align the pupil's needs with curriculum demands.
- Provide learning advice and maintain continuous dialogue and negotiation with the pupil.
- Teach and enable self-regulation of teaching and self-assessment of learning.
VISIBLE LEARNING (John Hattie)
- Observing the effects of learning.
- Focusing more on learning and its effects rather than teaching.
- Learning accelerates when the pupil learns to have control over their learning. They must know the learning goals, plan the path, and have the ability to assess the learning effect and adjust subsequent steps in the learning process.
Tips for Getting Started
Choose a group, subject, or topic for which you have an idea of how to begin the cycle of formative assessment.
The content is not crucial at this point, as it will be in the background; your focus should be on the process (perhaps choose a subject related to character education if possible).
Do not conclude the first attempt with a grade (both you and the pupils are learning the process, and it's not ethical).
Plan the first two activities and consider possible paths for continuation, taking into account plans, ideas, and suggestions from pupils.
It's not necessary to complete the entire cycle of formative assessment; you can focus on specific phases like criteria or diagnostics (usually, starting with criteria and self-assessment, then the full cycle).
Explain your intentions to the pupils and ask for their feedback at the end of the activity.
Each activity should naturally flow into the next based on your findings.
Keep in mind that you'll need more time with pupils in the beginning, as you're introducing a new process. This time will shorten as the process becomes more familiar, and pupils become more active. So, it's worth taking your time at the beginning.
Start with small steps, reflect on the process, plan future activities, and create your own development portfolio.
Find a critical friend or colleague.
Form a supportive group with regular meetings for exchanging opinions, and invite experts for advice or new knowledge.
Mistakes are part of learning; we learn the most from them. Be a role model and admit them.
Be courageous, persistent, and create an encouraging environment for growth and development because the journey is more important than the destination.
In the 20 years of development in learning self-regulation (innovative project "Pathways to Higher Quality/Lasting Teaching/Knowledge") and formative assessment ("Development of Knowledge Assessment Didactics" - developmental-applied project, Institute of the Republic of Slovenia for Vocational Education and Training, and Erasmus plus project "Internationality as an Opportunity for Life School Development"), I have shared insights, good practice examples, case studies, and research in numerous professional articles, accessible HERE.
The purpose of diagnostics is not only to assess prior knowledge with traditional tests, but it has a much broader meaning. Diagnostics includes identifying strong areas where energy resides, identifying weaknesses with the aim of addressing them, and collectively planning goals that make learning meaningful and consider pupils' interests and needs. It also involves discussing learning strategies that will help pupils achieve their set goals.
Example of pupil Sara: Through diagnostics, we discovered that Sara struggles with composing sentences. Now, we give her special attention and together with Sara, we develop strategies to improve her writing. This way, we have created an individualized plan that supports her in improving her writing.
For us, diagnostics is crucial in understanding the needs and interests of each pupil. Through the shared planning of goals and learning strategies, we create personalized learning experiences that encourage pupil to develop their strengths and overcome weaknesses. In this process, pupils become active co-creators of their learning and achieve remarkable results that go beyond mere knowledge assessment. Pupils notice that the teacher cares about them and that they are not just numbers.
Until the pupils were used to active exploration, their response to my question "How would you learn?" was "The teacher explains on the board, we copy, solve problems on the board, and then copy them into our notebooks." This response made me reflect because with such teaching, pupils don't learn mathematics or gain much. The pupils held up a mirror to me.
HOW WE PLAN GOALS?
New school year, new content, a problem, improving knowledge... we start most of it with diagnostics of prior knowledge or shared planning.
We learn to plan goals and paths to goals. Later, we move from group planning to individual, especially in the phase of (self)evaluation.
Learning goals, whether for a single lesson or an entire teaching unit, can be presented to pupils or formulated together with them.
Formulating goals together with pupils is more meaningful and natural, especially when working on a teaching unit or topic. Meanwhile, the goal of the lesson is presented at the beginning and summarized at the end. pupils who know the goal of the lesson can self-assess more easily and determine whether they have achieved the set goal.
We also plan the path to the goal together with pupils and discuss various learning methods:
- When do I learn the most from studying?
- How can I learn most easily/fastest?
- What circumstances are necessary for successful learning?
Introducing metacognitive strategies, which means thinking about one's own learning, has a significant impact on pupils' effort, achievements, and their motivation to learn. By encouraging pupil to think about their own learning processes, their ability to learn effectively and self-regulate increases. Pupils become more responsible for their own learning and can more easily identify the approaches that suit them best.
We believe that involving pupils in goal setting and learning planning is crucial. Through this process, they become more confident, independent, and motivated to achieve their goals. We aim to create an environment where pupils take responsibility for their learning and develop into independent and self-initiated individuals.
We believe in the diversity of teaching because we understand that pupils have various needs and learning styles. Lessons are therefore conducted in different ways, in line with the goals of each individual class. Here are some examples of different approaches we use:
- Joint explanation followed by individual work: At the beginning of the class, the teacher provides a collective explanation of new material, and then pupils continue independently with tasks distributed according to difficulty levels. Pupils can choose tasks based on their set goals and personal interests.
- Independent note-taking or content study followed by discussion (flipped learning): Sometimes pupils independently study a specific topic, followed by discussion, pupil questions, and tasks at varying levels of difficulty, which can be solved in pairs or groups.
- Learning in groups based on difficulty levels or in heterogeneous groups: Pupils are divided into groups based on their proficiency levels, allowing for pace adjustment and individualized support. Groups can be homogenous or heterogeneous, depending on the goals and classroom dynamics.
When working in pairs and groups, we encourage pupils to seek help from their peers before turning to the teacher. This promotes mutual assistance and collaboration among pupils. This is also a benefit of learning in school.
All tasks and homework are tailored topupils' prior knowledge and individual goals. This ensures that learning is meaningful, relevant, and adapted to the individual needs of each pupil.
Our goal is to create a learning environment where pupils feel supported, respected, and motivated to learn. We believe that the diversity of teaching is essential for achieving successful learning and the development of all our pupil.
To ensure equal inclusion of all pupils, we can employ techniques by D. Wiliam:
NO HANDS UP: Pupils don't raise their hands. Anyone can be selected using sticks. A pupil has the option not to answer or to pass their turn if they don't want to (which rarely happens). The purpose of the sticks isn't to say, "Aha, I caught you not knowing." It's about creating a genuine space for questions and dilemmas that we can clarify during class. Not knowing is okay in school; it's acceptable. That's why they come to school.
STICKS: I write their names on wooden sticks. I draw someone's name from the container to answer. This prevents calling on the same pupils all the time or ensures more equal participation.
TIME TO ANSWER is typically a few seconds. Black recommends extending the time for reflection to 20 seconds. So, I ask the question first, allow time for reflection or discussion with a critical friend, and then draw a stick.
Learning criteria allow pupils to control their progress in the learning process. They serve as indicators that show whether goals have been achieved or guide us on the path to reaching them. By using criteria, pupils can self-assess their progress and plan activities for further learning.
We differentiate between three types of criteria:
Criteria for open goals: These criteria require more time to develop and much discussion about examples that better or worse meet each criterion. They are used for essays, compositions, art projects, etc.
Criteria for closed goals: These are more precisely defined steps that guide us in the process of achieving a specific goal. This type of criteria is often used for closed goals, such as mathematical processes or learning grammar.
Final criteria for assessing the quality of what has been learned (evaluation): These criteria are used for comprehensive assessment and reflection of pupils' achievements at the end of a specific
In our community, criteria that have been co-developed by teachers are available to members. These criteria are invaluable aids to both teachers and pupils in their learning and development. They provide us with a clear insight into progress and encourage greater responsibility and autonomy in learning. This creates a learning environment where pupils take an active role in their learning and develop as independent and self-initiated individuals.
After applying the established criteria, an important part of the process follows - self-evaluation and planning for knowledge improvement. In this step, group goals become individual, as each pupil plans goals based on their personal needs and desires for improvement.
Transitioning from group planning to an individual level, we aim for each pupil to actively contribute to their progress. We assist them with the following questions:
What do I already know?
What is challenging for me? What would I like to further improve or learn?
How will I achieve this? Which approaches or strategies will assist me in learning?
Who will help me reach my goals? Where can I seek assistance or additional resources?
If necessary, how will I organize my personal learning plan, perhaps even on a daily basis, with defined specific tasks.
We pay special attention to pupils who encounter difficulties in independent problem-solving or seeking help. With struggling pupils, we identify weak areas where they need more learning support. Thus, we provide them with additional assistance to learn effective strategies for problem-solving, setting realistic goals, and how to find suitable help when needed.
Our goal is to create an environment where pupils feel confident and capable of taking responsibility for their learning. Through individual planning, we encourage their autonomy and initiative, thereby contributing to the development of self-directed learning and personal growth.
VIDEO RECORDING OF THE WEBINAR ON PUPIL SELF-ASSESSMENTS: https://fb.watch/5l0WxX7m8V/
Feedback plays a crucial role in reducing the gap between expected achievement and a pupil's current knowledge.
The greatest motivational impact of feedback is achieved when it focuses on the following aspects:
Emphasis on the qualities of a pupil's work, not on comparisons with other pupils. Each pupil is unique, so it's important to highlight and acknowledge their individual achievements.
Precise advice on how a pupil can improve their work. Feedback should be specific, clear, and geared towards positive encouragement for further progress. Grades are not quality feedback.
Evaluation of improvements a pupil has achieved compared to their previous achievements. By comparing with past work, we encourage pupils to be aware of their own progress.
Feedback has significant potential, but it can have different effects on learning (Visible Learning, Hattie). The key is for it to be directed at a pupil's prior knowledge, as that's their starting point for further learning. Trust is essential for the success of feedback, believing it will be effective, and integrating it as part of the school culture.
Pupils usually expect immediate feedback, but delayed feedback has often proven to be more effective.
Feedback provided by pupils to teachers holds exceptional value as it enables teachers to better understand pupils' needs and adapt their teaching.
Grades and comments that aren't focused on improvements can disrupt learning and lead to demotivation. Comments should highlight pupils' successes and improvements, not just point out weaknesses.
Peer feedback should also involve pupils.
In our approach, we are aware of the power of feedback and consistently integrate it into the learning environment. We believe it is crucial for encouraging pupil learning and growth. Through constructive, positive, and tailored feedback, we support each pupil on their learning journey, enabling them to develop confidence, independence, and inner motivation for further learning.