Ryan Wertz, Kathy Shelton and Paula Sondej, World Language Consultants, Ohio Department of Education
The SLO (Student Learning Objective) is suffering from an identity crisis. An SLO gets lots of attention early in the school year when teachers pre-assess students in order to set growth targets for student learning. The SLO also gets lots of attention late in the school year when teachers post-assess to see if their students met their growth target. But in between, the SLO starts to feel like a neglected child trying to figure out who it really is and why no one is paying any attention to it.
Why this SLO identity crisis? What are we missing as far as its true purpose? We all know the SLO’s role in determining educator effectiveness and impact on student learning, but what is the educator’s role in determining the SLO’s impact on student learning? Educators spend several days pre-assessing students, gathering and inputting demographics and data, and setting learning goals for students with this tool. So why is this valuable information often ignored as soon as the SLO is submitted? How can administrators and teachers use the SLO to plan curriculum and assessments that will maximize student learning?
The SLO pre-assessment information, along with demographic data gathered via the SLO, provides crucial guidance in designing content that addresses students’ needs because it identifies areas of strength and weakness for individual students, as well as their year-long learning goals. For world language teachers, one of the most effective ways to gather SLO data is by using an open-ended performance assessment or IPA as the pre-assessment. By scoring the pre-assessment with proficiency rubrics, teachers receive concrete evidence for each student’s language proficiency in terms of interpretive, interpersonal and presentational skills, cultural competence, and what the student needs to do to advance to the next level.
For example, based on data in the SLO, the teacher may find that a large subgroup of her students struggle in reading skills and deeper comprehension of authentic texts. The teacher decides to use the ACTFL Appendix D template to scaffold readings, based on each student’s proficiency level. The sub-group of students initially focuses on literal comprehension skills such as key word recognition, main idea and supporting details. As these skills improve, students begin to focus on higher level comprehension skills such as making inferences and comparing cultural perspectives. The students who already have strong reading skills will be challenged to focus on both the literal and the higher level reading skills throughout the entire course. The teacher will consistently use formative and summative assessments to monitor each student’s progress in comprehending authentic texts, ensuring students are on track to meet their learning goals for the year, as targeted in the SLO.
The true purpose of an SLO has arguably been overshadowed by its role in evaluating educator effectiveness. Perhaps the time has finally come to resolve the identity crisis of the SLO.
Visit the Ohio Department of Education’s World Languages Model Curriculum and SLO Guidance pages for more resources related to this topic.