Home' Teacher : December 2010 Contents CURRICULUM & ASSESSMENT 31
ever needs to communicate the possibility
of learning to all students. When students
believe the reason for success to be largely
a result of the learning process and receive
praise for personal levels of effort, they are
more likely to believe, 'I can do this.'
Do I know what is expected?
The importance of reassuring students that
they can succeed in the learning task and
showing them exactly what needs to be
done to complete a task seems obvious. Yet
despite providing descriptions, outlines and
examples in class, many of us still have stu-
dents submit work that suggests they have
not fully understood what was required.
We've probably all said, 'I went through
the task in class and gave examples. How on
earth could they not know what to do?' at
one time or another. You can hear the exas-
peration in the question, but the real ques-
tion we need to ask ourselves is how did we
know our students understood? The answer
provides the key to helping them better
understand what is expected. For example,
when a student is able to show another stu-
dent what needs to be done or describe the
steps and possible confusions we gain an
insight into the student's understanding of
what is expected. As soon as a student starts
to overgeneralise, use non-descriptive words
such as 'thing' and 'it,' we cannot assume
the student has a clear understanding of
how the task will look when it's completed.
As Arthur Costa and Bena Kallick describe
in Habits of Mind, fuzzy language reflects
There are a number of ways to help stu-
dents know what is expected, for example,
among other things:
have a colleague read your task sheet and
ask them to explain what they think is
required based on the task sheet alone
show students examples of work com-
pleted by other students and identify
strengths and opportunities for improve-
invite students to discuss their u nder-
standing of the task with each other
before starting the task
annotate a sample response to provide
clarity in expectations
include a checklist of items that need to
be included in a task for students to use
as a guide, and
have students submit a draft of their
response to the task with key elements
or expectations highlighted in different
Expectations relate to process but impor-
tantly they also relate to standard. Students
often raise or lower their level of achieve-
ment to match the level of expectation we
as teachers hold for them. In other words,
when we expect students to do well, we pro-
vide the impetus for them do well.
Many of the strategies I've outlined here
are not new. Our challenge is not in know-
ing what works in enhancing positive stu-
dent attitudes, it's in planning and putting
these strategies consistently into practice
to foster positive attitudes for all students.
Student attitudes are the filter through
which all learning occurs. If we truly value
academic achievement, we must also value,
plan and deliver instructional strategies that
enhance positive student attitudes. Highly
effective teachers don't leave this pivotal
aspect of learning to chance. T
Dr Rob McEwan is the Deputy Headmas-
ter at Ne wc a stle Grammar School. He
has led staff profession al de velopme nt in
Dimensions of Learning and his doctoral
thesis explored student motivation.
Costa, A.L . & Kallick, B. (2000).
Describing 16 Habits of Mind.
Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Marzano, R.J. , Pickering, D.J., Daisy
E Arredondo, D.E . , Blackburn ,
G.J. ,Brandt, R.S. & Moffett, C.A.
(2006). Dimensions of Learning.
Alexandria, VA: Association
for Supervision and Curriculum
De velopme nt; Aurora, CO: Mid-
continent Regional Educ ational
Laboratory; Melbourne: Hawker
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