C3B4ME = See Three Before (You Come Back To) Me!

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Name one quick and easy-to-use formative assessment technique you can use tomorrow?

On my teacher travels, I regularly quote a tried-and-trusted teacher technique I’ve used for 25 years. However, despite 3,000 blogs on this site, I have never written about it!

As stated in the blog post title, the acronym C3B4Me stands for ‘See Three Before Me.’

Using formative assessment vocabulary

The technique is used as a formative assessment tool to encourage students to self-regulate their learning by checking the work that they’ve completed with peers in their classroom. This is a fantastic workload strategy for teachers to help reduce the many persistent – and sometimes unnecessary – demands students create in class. The technique encourages students to fix problems first.

Here is a classroom scenario to help you understand how it might work; you can read richer examples in Mark Plan Teach 2.0.

Setting a classroom task

C3B4METhe teacher would set the students off on a task to complete. An example from my classroom would be that I might ask the students to annotate some popular design icons and images in a design and technology lesson.

This learning aims to build students’ subject vocabulary (e.g. aesthetics, tone, style, material) in their annotations. The students have done the task before, but some of the supporting documentation has been removed this time, and the retrieval task is designed to strengthen what they already know.

Developing resilience

C3B4MEOccasionally, teachers will know that some students complete tasks far too quickly than they should, sometimes without realising they’ve made a mistake. They fail to verify their answers, think through some of their decisions, or check over their work against available assessment criteria.

As a result, as the teacher tries to work around the classroom or sit at their desk resolving one or two dilemmas, looking up to the class in conversation with one student, the teacher sees a queue of students grow, eager to gain feedback or desperate to move on to the next step in the lesson.

What can a teacher do to resolve feedback demands?

The C3B4ME technique effectively alleviates these issues, fosters independence, and reduces students’ tendency to seek reassurance from the teacher. It develops self-regulation and resilience for student(s) place, decreasing students’ reliance on the teacher too early on in a specific task.

If a student approached me with a question or wanted me to check their work, unless they had completed some initial verification, I would always push back their first attempt and reply with, “See three before me.”

Underpinned by assessment

C3B4MEOf course, all responses must be supported by the assessment criteria students can use. Specific questions to ask must also be considered, and a quick assessment on the teacher’s part to evaluate what the student needs to do are all important stages in the process.

Turning to research, when we look at effective study skills, elaboration and self-explanation are two easy fixes that teachers can introduce to help develop student self-regulation. Elaboration means generating ideas and being able to explain why. Self-explanation means explaining new information, preferably in your own words.

Remember, developing critical thinking skills for students requires them to understand the task at hand, their capabilities, and how to solve the problem. Teachers should aim to achieve metacognitive thinking by teaching students how to plan, monitor, and evaluate learning. It is not achieved by setting problem-solving tasks.

C3B4ME connects all of the above into a simple, memorable and effective mnemonic all teachers can use tomorrow.

When deployed well, nobody will notice

The challenge for all teachers is using this mantra successfully with your students, providing the necessary scaffolding in class, to allow the technique to thrive across the classroom environment.

When it is deployed well, nobody will even notice.

Try C3B4ME tomorrow. Within weeks, your classroom dynamics will shift — students will collaborate more and become resourceful, and much of your time that is spent on repetitive questions and answers will be drastically reduced.

C3B4ME is a game-changer for workload and also empowers students to take charge of their learning, building confidence and develop critical thinking skills.

Image: ChatGPT

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