Does a student know that they are confused and can they express that to their teacher? We need formative assessment and self-assessment to go hand-in-hand.
I agree that formative self-assessment is the key. Often, I think students don’t take the time to assess if they understand or are confused. I think that it is routine and “easy” in class. The student is practicing just like they’ve been coached in real time. When they get home, do they “practice like they play” or do they just get through the assignment? I think that is where deep practice comes into play. If they practice without assessing (checking for success) will they promote their confusion? I tell my students that it is like practicing shooting free throws with your feet perpendicular to each other. Terrible form does not promote success. Zero practice is better than incorrect practice.
With that being said, I think that teachers must have realistic expectations about time and quality of assignments. If we expect students to engage in deep practice (to embrace the struggle) then we have to shorten our assignments to accommodate the additional time it will take to engage in the struggle. We now ask students to complete anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 as many problems as in the past with the understanding that these problems will be attempted using the method of deep practice.
Our version of deep practice homework:
“We have significantly shortened this assignment from years past in order to allow you time to work these questions correctly. We want you do work with deep practice.
- Please work each problem slowly and accurately.
- Check the answer to the question immediately.
- If correct, go to the next problem.
- If not correct, mark through your work – don’t erase – leave evidence of your effort and thinking.
- Try again.
- If you make three attempts and can not get the correct answer, go on to the next problem. “
I am intrigued by what deep practice might look like in other classrooms and/or disciplines. In ¡Inglés fatal!, TSadtler is starting to write about deep practice and what it might look like with his students. (The 13-year prologue post that includes his first mention of deep practice including the powerful questions “Can I do this and will it result in meaningful, ‘well-myelinated’ learning for my kids?”)
I also think that the formative assessments with “leveling” encourage the willingness to struggle. How many times has a student responded to you “I don’t get it”? Perhaps it is not a lack of effort. Perhaps it is a lack of connected vocabulary. It is not only that they don’t know how, is it that they don’t know what it is called either. It is hard to struggle through when you lack vocabulary, skill, and efficacy all at the same time.
Now is the time to give them voice, confidence (and trust), and a safe place to struggle.
Assessment does not always have to carry a grade. Learning should not be punitive. If the struggle causes a student to learn, that struggle should be rewarded.