We work with literacy learners. While we understand that it can be disorienting for families and caregivers to learn explicitly about the needs of their learners for the first time after long periods of expressed concern, we would argue that it's even more difficult for the students themselves. The impact of academic difficulty is greatest on them and often results in feelings of helplessness, frustration and anger when they learn that this information has not been openly communicated with them. No matter the reason. We believe that the solution can be found through effective assessment, clear communication of results to families and students, deep instructor knowledge that allows responsiveness to the needs of each learner, and progress monitoring that has a clear connection to literacy goals.
When we assess students, we use research-based diagnostic assessments of specific skills or components of reading. We communicate those results. We also create a plan for building on student strengths to support new learning. It's essential for students to be involved in this process as they are often aware of where their difficulties lie and are eager to learn what they can do about it.
One example of a progress monitoring tool that empowers students as ongoing learners is a phoneme-grapheme chart that can be filled in as students master phonics concepts. They can see their progress and are motivated to work toward a goal that has become more concrete. Another example is student writing. When a rubric is clearly shared and students apply it regularly, they can begin to see for themselves how much their writing is improving over time.
Students are very aware of their own strengths and needs and how those affect their learning. They also know which instructors can help them move forward. John Hattie (2008) calls this teacher credibilty, meaning that students do perceive which adults can make a difference in their learning, and if they don't believe that an instructor is credible, they "just shut down."
We have spent long careers building our understanding of how to assess and teach literacy learners. We have many concrete examples of how our approach has changed student attitudes toward reading, writing, and even their own efficacy as learners. This is why we continue to do what we do, and we would love to tell you more! Contact us here, on our Facebook page, or at Merten.Morgan@gmail.com to start the conversation.
Hattie, J. (2008). Visible learning. Routledge.