FIP: From Learning Targets to Student Ownership

This blog post was written by Neil Roseberry. Neil is a FIP Specialist for the Northeast Region, a part of a regional support system available to help your LEA advance the use of formative instructional practices. 

In April, we visited the classroom of 3rd grade teacher, Michelle LaGruth, at Falls-Lenox Primary School to examine what FIP looked like in her classroom. Nine months later we returned to follow up.

Since our last meeting, how have Formative Instructional Practices changed in your classroom?

“I think that the biggest difference is that I now plan all of my lessons around the learning targets and am able to differentiate those targets in a more effective way than I did before. I still want to get better at providing the correct targets for each student based on their needs. That is the most difficult part! I have found that the students really have become dependent on the learning target to understand where they are headed. I have also heard parents asking about learning targets. My student feedback has also changed a bit. I have found that I am doing a better job of connecting the feedback directly to each learning target. Before, my feedback would sometimes stray away from the target and students were probably receiving too much feedback. Although it has been difficult, I have really worked on highlighting only one or two things at a time for students to improve upon.”

Have you noticed any other changes with student achievement?

“One thing that has definitely changed is the way students talk now. I mentioned that I hear parents asking about learning targets, but students are also talking the same language. Since the district set the two goals of clear learning targets and effective feedback in all classes K-12, you can see and hear the difference in student focus. We have seen this effect their achievement. Our BLT (Building Leadership Team) has been tracking data and we can see real achievement differences since the building and the district has taken on these goals. I believe it has been so important for us to have a vision and understand that we are all (K-12) headed in the same direction!”

How do the students in your classroom take ownership of their work and their achievement?

“We, as a grade level unit, have worked on this and continue to improve it as we speak. The first thing we have done is to make sure that students understand where they are achieving as it relates to the learning target. In some cases, we then have students set a goal for their improvement. It can be an individual goal that is achievable for them. Although I don’t do it for every subject, for some subjects, like math, I have the students chart their growth based on the learning target and their goal. That way they can see exactly how much they have improved. I started with math because it seemed to be the easiest to adapt to this process. Other teachers at my grade level have used the idea to chart improvement in other areas. We also have started to include the students in meetings we have with parents. The students become a major part of the process. Because of this, they are more focused on their goals and achievement. “

What have you found to be the most challenging part of implementing Formative Instructional Practices?

“To be honest, I can answer that in one word - time. We never seem to have enough time; time to plan, time to collaborate, time to conference with students, time to just reflect on our practices. There is so much being thrown at us right now that sometimes I think my head will explode. With the amount of testing that is taking place to the implementation of OTES, we sometimes have very little time to just focus on instruction. I really wish that there were not so many things because I can see the importance of all we have talked about, but sometimes don’t have the time to implement or improve what I need to.”

What are the next steps for you and your classroom?

“I plan to continue to improve in all the areas we have discussed. I want to find better ways to provide the correct learning targets and to assess that students really understand where they are and where they are going. There are so many more techniques that I can try to implement that will help the students become more a part of the learning process. I also want to continue to help the parents understand that we are looking for mastery of knowledge!

Just one of the ways the students track their progress on specific learning targets.

Just one of the ways the students track their progress on specific learning targets.

Mrs. LaGruth is a 3rd grade teacher at Falls-Lenox Primary School. The school is a first through third grade building in the Olmsted Falls City School District. The District serves 3,800 students and is located 19 miles west of downtown Cleveland.