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Empowered Learners need empowered teachers who provide them with the necessary skills and tools to own their learning. What are these skills and tools? They are those of an effective learner, who knows what do to move his or her learning forward. 


However, engaging in such work, requires teachers to have a formative and growth focus as they develop positive learner identity, clarity of learning expectations, develop a formative learning process, teach and transfer learner strategies and metacognition, and support students in proving their learning.


The following formative assessment series leverages foundational beliefs and practices that empower learners. Each component in the series can be provided as a short workshop-style session for teachers and leaders in order to develop a common language around empowering students, establishing key practices, and engaging educators in developing stronger learners.

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Developing a Positive Learner Identity


Learners often harbor feelings about themselves as learners that are not positive and cause them to act out or appear unmotivated.  However, when teachers and leaders collectively engage in learning how to impact learner beliefs and build a strong learner identity in all students, belief is transformed. 

Visit our EmpowerED Learner Series page to learn more! 

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Clarity of Learning Expectations


If teachers are not clear about the expectations for learning, students have no way of taking more ownership over their own learning journey. Therefore, it is critical that educators spend time collectively working to determine both the expectations for learning and what constitutes success. Once teachers have come to a place of clarity, they can share that clarity with students, inviting students to partner with them as informed contributors.

Learning Goal: Student-friendly Learning Expectations are collectively developed and used in the classroom with students.

Educators will…

• Unpack and develop a deep understanding of the standards
• Develop Learning Goals and Success Criteria that share the what, why and how of learning.
• Determine models of success to share with students in order that they have exemplars and works along the way to compare their own progress to as they learn.
• Develop a plan for co-constructing Success Criteria with students so they understand what successful learning looks like.

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The Formative Assessment Process

One of the critical ways teachers can promote ownership of learning for students is through regular opportunities to make student thinking visible, allowing students to engage in the formative process for themselves and with others.  Thus, students are more informed of their progress and their next steps in learning.  This sets up regular feedback conversations within the classroom that engaging all learners in a progress-focused approach to learning.

Learning Goal:  Determine opportunities to make students thinking visible in the classroom.

Educators will…

• Develop daily and weekly tools to make learning visible
• Align tools to the learning expectations
• Develop plans to establish a culture of revision and feedback in the classroom
• Determine ways to use peer experts in learning conversations
• Discuss ways teachers can promote progress and provide responsive, targeted instruction in response to learners’ needs.

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Learner Strategies & Metacognition


Learning content is essential but so is learning how to learn.  We have no idea what challenges our learners will face once they leave our classrooms so our goal is to equip them to know what to do when they don’t know exactly what to do. As students become aware of what strategies for learning work well for them and how they can be metacognitive in their learning, they become more empowered as learners.

Learning Goal: Build learners’ toolbox of strategies.

Educators will…

• Develop ways to determine what strategies our learners already have and which they most need.
• Explore how to transfer strategies from teacher-owned strategies to student-owned.
• Develop opportunities throughout the learning process for students to be metacognitive have power over their next steps in learning.

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Proving Learning

When considering how to build stronger learners, we have to re-assess our current practices around sharing achievement and progress with students.  Are we sending clear messages to students about their learning?  What does 7/10, 84%, a letter grade communicate?  For students to grow as better, more equipped learners, they have to know their progress and their achievement.  They have to know when they have had a mastery moment in learning.

Learning Goal:  We will develop ways for students to prove their learning.

Educators will…

• Explore how proving learning promotes self-efficacy
• Determine ways students can prove their learning throughout the learning process (reflections, portfolios, videos, etc.)
• Create a plan to empower learners to prove learning regularly in a variety of learning conversations

Books by Kara Vandas

Jump start your professional learning, order one of Kara Vandas' books on assessment.

Bring Kara or a Team Member to your School or System.