I wrote that not to try and get your attention, well, all right, partly to get your attention but really, because I have been struggling with triathlons and I think formative assessment would help.
Let me clarify what I mean by formative assessment. From my understanding it is a planned process where one assesses where someone (me in both instances) is in terms of the learning (triathlon training – swimming to be specific!) Based on this assessment, the instruction continues or is modified.
Swimming is challenging for me. If the swim leg was 50 yards, I would be fine, but it is not, 1/2 mile is a long, long way for me. I am not sure if I love a challenge, or I am merely delusional, however I am going to swim this distance comfortably, one day, soon, hopefully.
I have purchased flippers, snorkel, goggles, hand paddles, and even a clicky belt thing. I have read books, studied videos, and crawled the web for tips and insight. I have had lessons, and I have practiced in a pool and in a lake.
I practiced body rolling, arm strokes, getting my butt up, and bi-lateral breathing. I am better than I was. (I once read a T-shirt that said, “The older I get, the better I was.”) I agree with the sentiment, but I digress.
So why am I not much, much better?
Here is what I am learning, thanks to educational leaders such as Margaret Heritage, Dylan Wiliam and James Popham.
I do reflect on my skill (a term I am using rather loosely!) and I found I check how I am going, quite regularly, and even make a mental note of my performance. In most cases, I think I should do a little more of this; say breathing, and a little less of that; say sinking.
What I believe is missing in my triathlon training is an intentional assessment of my performance against what in the educational literature is referred to as learning progressions: the building blocks that are pivotal to what I am trying to achieve. And then … decide immediately what to do as a consequence of this assessment. If I am mostly successful I will continue, if I am not succeeding, I will immediately take action, an action I have already planned that will support my learning.
I believe I am checking in on my performance, quite regularly, but not always checking against pivotal points, and not determining if I need to take immediate action to clarify or correct something that is hindering me.
My New Plan
I am going to write out the building blocks of my swimming training, plan to assess my progress as I near the end of each block, and have a plan to intervene if I do not feel successful, or, if I am feeling successful, continue to the next learning progression/building block. I think this is a strategic way to intentionally improve my swimming.
I believe this process will not only help my swimming for triathlons, but also my craft as an educator.