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Thinking is invisible and is assessable

It's generally true that students are told what to learn and rarely taught how to learn, leading to students feeling stuck, anxious, and disengaged. The Skills Studio programs teach students strategies they can use to develop their Agency and independence.

Agency (Stoic-Roman) awareness of exercising your full human capability bounded by your ethical and moral compass.

Skills Studio learning programs are experiential, meaning students learn by doing, including helping students reflect on their impact and thought processes. Experiential learning engages students' thinking processes enabling self-regulation and direction of their thoughts, behaviors, and actions toward their goals. 

As early as kindergarten, but best from 3rd grade, teachers can support students in developing critical life skills through planning, monitoring, and evaluating their learning. Once students reach third grade, they can begin to use these strategies with increased choice and independence.

Parents and teachers can help students evaluate their knowledge and learning processes by guiding them to assess their use of nine essential life skills.

The tricky thing about teaching students to develop their thinking is that you can't see thinking. You can see body language and sense engagement, but you can't see thinking.

You can see body language and sense engagement, but you can't see thinking by Greg Twemlow

Helping students appreciate their thought processes can be abstract and hard to evaluate. So, how does the teacher know if students actively reflect on their learning?

I have found it helpful to have tools that make thinking visible and measurable. Students and teachers can collect data to track and assess their use of life skills in the classroom.

Students who could benefit from building their life skills include:

  1. Not knowing when they need help,
  2. Continue to use a strategy even if it is not working,
  3. Apply the same amount of effort to easy and challenging tasks,
  4. Use shallow recall strategies when the job requires deeper critical thinking and creativity,
  5. Have trouble transferring learned techniques from one context to another,
  6. Fail to use prior knowledge or make connections to previously known material, and
  7. Demonstrate overconfidence in strategies that are not working or in their preparation.

Most students display some of these traits when presented with challenging work. Using formative and self-assessment to measure the application of life skills and cognitive strategies can help students develop an awareness of where they need to focus.

Here are some ways to assess students' development of life skills. The nine life skills assessment comprises three parts: knowledge, experience, and process.

The nine life skills application describes how a student interprets, interacts with, or processes specific learning experiences, including their feelings while completing a task.

Here are three ideas for assessing the application of life skills. These tasks allow students to develop an awareness of how they learn, make learning visible, and begin to see how their efforts affect the results they achieve.

Student portfolios: 

The Skills Studio learning programs enable students to include work in their portfolio from the beginning, middle, and end of a program to show their learning progression for a specific skill over time. They can use these work samples to compare what they thought at the beginning of the program with how they feel now. Having students examine their work samples allows them to see growth and changes in their skill levels. Students can reflect on their progress and what they might need to work on next by tracking changes in their thinking over time.

Student-led conferences: 

Work samples from student portfolios can be used for personal reflection or presented at a student-led conference to a parent or guardian. Unlike traditional conferences, students do the presenting. Instead of only showcasing their finished product, they walk teachers and parents or other people external to the school community, such as local business owners, through their growth during the unit.

Reflecting on how they learn: 

Students benefit from trying multiple ways to learn and practice a specific skill to discover what works best for them in different contexts. Students can think about a time when they enjoyed learning something new and felt a sense of pride in their work.

Innovative thinking processes are employed when students use planning, monitoring, evaluating, and cognitive strategies to engage in self-regulated learning. When students self-assess their application of skills, they can determine the skills that require their focus. They reflect on whether specific strategies worked for them or the task they were attempting. They also think about other contexts where the method could be helpful and consider how they would modify their approach.

The Life Skills inventory: 

The Skills Studio has created ways for students to self-assess their use of the nine essential life skills. I have adapted a version of two well-known pedagogical models to develop a practical skills inventory. This inventory, adaptable for around 4th grade through 12th grade, can be used as a diagnostic assessment at specific intervals during the school year to set relevant, personalized goals. Students can also retake the inventory as often as they wish to monitor progress.

My Skills Studio Report Card v1 Mar 2022 is Copyright 2022 Greg Twemlow and www.theskills.studio

Students' academic performance links to how they engage in thinking strategies, especially the processes that make self-regulated learning possible. 

As students learn more about their thinking, they also increase their ability to manage their thoughts. Students who develop life skills generally begin to think about learning differently. Instead of viewing learning as teacher-dependent, they will start to understand that learning is something they can undertake. 

Seeing the connection between their choices and the outcomes they experience in school helps students develop Agency and become the guide-masters of their learning process.

Agency (Stoic-Roman) awareness of exercising your full human capability bounded by your ethical and moral compass.

About the author:

Greg Twemlow is the Founder of The Skills Studio

Find me on Medium -----  and LinkedIn