Recently, I was reading through an article on using Electronic Portfolios and my mind kept coming back to student self assessment. There are several elements of self-assessment that I have been turning over in my mind in the past few years, especially as we move more fully into the new curriculum.
1. Student self-assessment tends to be accurate.
In my experience, this is true. In fact, I’d argue that students are usually harder on themselves, when it comes to assessing their ability levels and performance, than teachers are. This, however, relies upon the teacher having provided clear criteria for what the learning objectives are and what success and mastery look like. If I was to ask students to grade themselves with letter grades, the results would be all over the place because letter grades have little to no real attachment to the reality of learning. Students are generally pretty accurate when given a rubric, however. The most interesting to me are those where there is a complete, serious mismatch between the student’s assessment of their ability level and that of the instructor. In almost every case, those have been red flags for me that the child involved should be seeing the school counsellor. In general, it has been either a method to protect a child’s fragile sense of self/adequacy (when they seriously overestimate their ability level) or an indication of depression, trauma, or severe lack of confidence (when they seriously underestimate their ability level).
2. Self-assessment leads to metacognition regarding the learning process.
This is one of the reasons I love having students work with me to create a rubric. It is a long process, and one where we can push into what learning actually means and what it looks like, beyond performance/hoop jumping. We can also discuss using rubrics as a means to push your ability levels. What I find interesting, however, is how much motivation plays a role here. When given a rubric, there are often students who, even when the jump from minimally meeting to fully meeting takes only a minimal amount of effort, will produce at the “minimal” level.
I’m really intrigued, lately, by the rubric format that my post-bacc diploma professor Kevin put forwards:
This model doesn’t give examples of how elements of the criteria might exceed or not yet meet the expectations of the assignment. Instead, it is up to the student, if the work doesn’t fall into the Meeting Expectations column, to indicate how it goes beyond, or falls short, of the assignment criteria. It has students putting in the effort to examine their own work and decide how they can expand it, or where they need support to be successful.
This will require explicit teaching of vocabulary to our ELL students, however, as they will need practice in being able to articulate how things are expanding or developing. So will all students, however, as this is a new form of assessment for them, and will require a fair amount of whole-class and partner practice before they can manage it accurately themselves.
I'm looking forward to trying this out with my class.
Jennie Slack is a grade 4/5 teacher at Chaffey-Burke Elementary School in Burnaby, and is president of MyPITA.