Student self-evaluation: How am I doing?

My middle school students frequently ask me “Is this right?” or “What should I do now?” How can I help them become more self-reliant?
Jocelyn, Georgia

I observed a seventh grade teacher at the beginning of a unit as he displayed the learning goals and asked the students to write them in their notebooks. He then asked students to add to the list, with prompts such as “I’d like to know more about…” or “I want to learn how to…” He displayed a separate list of these personal goals and referred to them throughout the unit. “Did we address your goal yet?” “Did you change your goal? Add a goal?” “What else do we need to do?” He encouraged them to self-assess and reflect on their learning of the class goals as well as their personal ones. These self-assessment and reflective activities gave students ownership in the unit, and he provided extra time in class to pursue their personal goals.

Self-assessment is more than students correcting their own papers. When students engage in self-assessment, they reflect on the results of their efforts and their progress toward meeting the learning goals. They look at their own work for evidence of quality, using established criteria on the rubrics.

Students don’t necessarily come to class with this skill, especially if their previous experiences have been environments in which the teacher did all of the assessment. They may initially think that an assignment (such as a lab report or project) is good simply because they spent a lot of time on it, they enjoyed it, or they worked very hard on it.

Students may need to learn strategies for self-assessment through examples and modeling.

Guide students through the process of comparing a piece of (unnamed) student  work to the rubric. You may have to do this several times before students feel comfortable critiquing their own work.

There are many types of activities that can be used as self-assessment strategies. Some double as formative assessment strategies, but in this case, students are using them to monitor their own progress:

  • At the beginning of the unit, give each student a copy of the learning goals and a list of ways they can demonstrate their learning of each. Show students how to monitor their progress by checking off goals as they are met.
  • Using thumbs up/down and exit tickets students can express the status of their learning and indicate topics on which they are still confused.
  • Student reflections are often included in science notebooks. Your modeling and guidance is important. Show students how you would reflect on your own learning.
    • I learned that…
    • I learned how to…
    • I need to learn more about…
  • For projects, give each student a copy of the rubric when the assignment is given. Ask them to fill it out and submit it with the project. There could also be a place on the rubric for students to reflect on their projects with prompts such as
    • This is a quality project because…
    • From doing this project I learned…
    • To make this project better, I could…
    • Our study team could have improved our work by…

Honest self-assessment and reflection are difficult processes, even for adults. But they are valuable tools for developing lifelong learners.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rongyos/2686415336/

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2 Comments

  1. Daniel Leija
    Posted February 7, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    What a great post, Mary. I totally agree with your insights. Student ownership in the whole process makes it so much more meaningful to them. Our 5th graders are participating in the AVID program and have gained a whole new outlook on school and academics. We also have them graph their grades which they keep in their binder. This gives them a visual perspective of where they are throughout the grading period. I also allow my students to help develop the scoring rubrics for our science projects. Knowing exactly what constitutes a viable project relieves a lot of stress on their part and keeps them focused on completing their projects properly.

  2. Mary Bigelow
    Posted February 8, 2012 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Thanks for your comment, Daniel. Most of my experience with student self-assessment has been in grades 7-12, so it’s good to what this looks like with younger students.

    I’ve heard a lot about the AVID program. Could you recommend any resources for those who would like more information about the AVID program in your school?

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