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s learners ascend to the upper el- ementary grades, the emotional dynamics of the assessment expe- rience begin to accumulate and impinge on them in ways that can be helpful or harmful. Those ef- fects can turn students into pro- ductive, data-based, instructional decision makers acting in their own best interest or counterproductive decision makers acting in ways that harm their academic success. From the time students arrive in school, they are interpreting their own assess- ment results and drawing inferences about themselves as learners that affect their learning well before their teachers get to act on those results. Those who see themselves succeeding early on begin to believe in themselves as able learners and behave accordingly. A self-fulfilling prophesy begins to play out that turns success into confidence, which gives the student the in- ner reserves needed to take the risk of trying with en- thusiasm for the next learning. That next success pumps up the confidence bubble, which triggers more vigorous trying and more success. And so the cycle con- tinues, with success feeding on success. The result is a student with a strong sense of academic self-efficacy. Unfortunately, the cycle can also go in the other di- rection. As learners ascend to the upper elementary grades, if they experience an accumulation of unsuc- cessful experiences, they can begin to infer that they are incapable of learning. As doubt builds, here too, it begins to feed on itself, and another self-fulfilling prophesy begins to play out. Students begin to use their own assessment results to ask, “Can I learn this, or is it too hard for me?” “Is this learning worth the energy that I’m going to have to invest to get it?” or “Is trying to learn this worth the risk that I might fail. .. again . . . in public?” If students come down on the wrong side of these questions based on their own sense of their academic record, then it robs them of academic self-efficacy and leaves them with little hope for school success. My point is that these developments in the mind of the elementary student don’t unfold overnight. Rather, they collect over time as children accumulate experiences. A critical time in that progression for some students can be the upper elementary grades, when they begin to define themselves in relation to school. By then, they may have gathered enough evi- dence to form a clear sense of themselves as learners, and they may begin to act on it. Assessment FOR Learning in Upper Elementary Grades Students learn more when they use assessments to evaluate their own learning and they have greater feelings of efficacy about their academic abilities. By Rick Stiggins RICK STIGGINS is founder and executive director of the ETS Assessment Training Institute, Portland, Oregon. © Rick Stiggins, 2009. >> Teaching Upper Elementary Students
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