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Learning reflections: Artifacts and attestations

Portfolio assessment increases student involvement in the learning process by teaching students how to plan, monitor, and evaluate their learning. Students become more aware of themselves as learners through reflection on their learning goals and progress and strengths and weaknesses.

This section focuses on learner involvement in the portfolio process by encouraging students to be active learners through strategic processes such as goal-setting, and self- and peer-assessment. It discusses setting and assessing learning goals and provides suggestions on how students can keep a record of their learning strategies use so as to attribute their successes to specific strategies.

Setting personal goals empowers students to

  • understand what they are studying
  • discover what they want to learn
  • plan to reach their learning goals
Student goal-setting In most instructional situations, goals are set through the teacher by the curriculum. Giving students the opportunity to establish their own personal goals, in addition to or in collaboration with those set by the program, allows students to reflect on their reasons for learning a second language. This can increase their motivation and personal involvement in the learning process. Goals can be either short-term (set by asking oneself, what do I want to learn to be able to do this week/unit) or long-term (set by asking, how am I going to use this language in my life, what do I want to be able to do at the end of this year/semester.). Long-term goals may be used to help set shorter, more reachable goals. For example, if a student's long-term goal is to be able to live and work in Japan for a year, then he may focus on weekly short-term goals such as being able to buy a train ticket, social customs for talking on the telephone, and giving culturally appropriate autobiographical information. Long-term goals are usually set at the beginning of the course, but may be re-evaluated periodically. Short-term goals are set more frequently, either weekly or biweekly.

You may need to model the difference between long-term, short-term, reachable and unreachable goals for students. When first asked to set goals, students may set objectives such as, "I want to understand everything my Spanish-speaking friends say." This is not a realistic goal. If goals are not reachable, then students are likely to become discouraged and lose motivation. Examples of reachable goals are "I want to learn 20 new words about music," or "I want to be able to give my opinions on and understand the main idea in a conversation about popular music." By modeling different kinds of goals for the class as a whole and by working with students individually, you can help students set reachable goals that give them confidence. This is skill useful in all academic areas.

Goal-setting worksheets can become part of the portfolio as student artifacts. We have included two worksheets (Setting Reasonable Goals and Personal Language Goals) that you can use with students, but you will want to adapt them to suit your students' needs.

Sample Lesson: Setting Reasonable Goals for a Middle School Spanish Class

(Contributed by Beverly Bicker, Spanish Teacher, Greenmount Alternative School, Baltimore, MD)

I. Setting Long Term Language Goals
Begin with a class discussion of long term goals by asking students the questions:
Why do we study a foreign language?
What are your reasons for studying Spanish?
Possible student answers:
To prepare for future jobs in which Spanish is used
To travel to other countries
To pass Spanish class (now and in the future)
To communicate with Spanish-speaking people in the US
To get along with and learn about people from other cultures
As a challenge which makes us feel good about ourselves
To prepare for the AP language test for college
Learning one language helps us learn another
Helps us understand our own language better

II. Setting Reasonable Goals for This Quarter
Hold a class discussion on what are reasonable goals (vs. unreasonable, unattainable goals). Then students write their own individual goals in the attached worksheet. Possible ideas of reasonable goals:
# of new vocabulary to be learned, pronunciation improvements, ability to participate in class discussions, ability to answer Spanish questions, learning to conjugate certain verbs (e.g., gustar), writing a penpal letter monthly, labeling the house, talking to a sister, learning songs, focusing attention in class, coming prepared to class
Student goals may be too general at first. Teacher needs to ask for more specificity. Some students need prompting to set more challenging goals and others need prompting to set more realistic goals.

III. Achieving Goals
Conduct a class discussion of how students can reach their goals. Ask students:
-How will you achieve your goals?
-What will you do every day or week to reach these goals?
Then have students write how they will achieve their goals in the attached worksheet.

IV. Checking back Goal sheets are kept in student portfolios at school and revisited every two weeks. Goals are continued, rewritten, revised, and added to.

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