Ah…the power of reflection! Years ago (in 2002), I was among the first world language teachers to earn National Board Certification. While the honor was important, it was the experience of preparing my portfolios with deep reflection into my teaching that has been the greatest reward. While all the NBPTS World Language Standards are immensely important, it is Standard VIII, Reflection, that has impacted my teaching more than any other.
That experience led me to develop the habit of routinely reflecting on the outcome of my teaching, making adjustments, reteaching, and creating more student-centered lessons. I believe that this reflection made me a better teacher and it has stayed with me as a dear pedagogical friend.
If teacher reflection makes us better at our profession, doesn’t it stand to reason that the same is true for students? I believe in guiding students to reflect on and identify their own learning progress and needs. There is quite a difference in telling students how to improve and in setting goals for them vs. engaging them in reflection, self-assessment, and goal-setting. There is “buy-in” and a feeling of ownership that comes with being part of the process and having a voice. Student reflection should be treated “as a habit not an event,” as the author states in this Edutopia article. If you have a copy of Temas (or AP® Spanish Language and Culture Exam Preparation), you can find AP® task reflection/self-assessment activities in the Appendices, as well as on the Supersite (downloadable, under the Resources tab).
There are also times for more in-depth reflection, a sort of appraising of needs and taking stock of readiness for high stakes assessments, such as the AP® Language and Culture Exams. Therefore, many years ago I developed a mid-year (or mid-course) survey for my AP® Spanish classes, which I have changed and updated over the years, most recently to incorporate the eight skill categories of the latest College Board Curriculum and Exam Description (CED).
In terms of the AP® exams, it means requiring students to reflect on their experiences with authentic texts and AP® themes, skills development, and progress with exam tasks. I also invite students to identify vocabulary needs and note structures that challenge them, both in interpreting texts and in creating communication for the four free-response tasks.
To do this, students check their progress on multiple choice exam task sets: the four readings text types, the two reading and listening combined texts, and the three listening/audio text types. Students read over their past email replies and argumentative essays to evaluate their writing. They listen to their conversations and cultural comparison presentations while noting my feedback and reflection that they had already completed after various tasks.
After collecting and analyzing their surveys, I developed a kind of “prescription” for each student. For example, if a student noted that they do well on reading comprehension, but are struggling with listening, I adjust that student’s assignments to ramp up listening. Or, if a student notes problems with a particular structure, I find intervention and practice activities for that student’s needs.
For meaningful feedback, it’s important to sit with each student personally to go over the plan to improve “need areas” before May. It will take one to two days, depending on class size and the length of the class, but that personal attention, that reflecting together, is necessary. Students appreciate the process enough to dig in and apply strategies, practice, and goals set.
As I met with each student, the rest of the class completed multiple choice practice for the exam from our AP® Spanish Language and Culture Exam Preparation workbook, analyzing and reflecting on their results, and preparing for discussion after the survey-student meeting process. That way class time is fruitful and focused.
So, to wrapit up, here is a link to a folder with two versions of my survey. One is Mi sondeo/encuesta personal (file name “AP® Spanish mid-year reflection survey”) for use with your students, if you would like! I also created an English version that can be translated for other AP® World Language and Culture classes. Enjoy!
Gracias, Merci, Grazie, Danke, Xiè xiè, Arigatou
By Parthena Draggett
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