Last April, Dean Shareski — a guy that I consider a mentor and a friend — inadvertently lit a fire under my professional bee-hind with a bit titled Adventures in Assessment. In it, Dean laid out a pretty simple challenge that I took to heart.
“So I’m wondering if you’re ready to let your students assess themselves. Not as some experiment where you end up grading them apart but where you really give the reigns over to them? If not, is it about trust? Is it about readiness? Fear? I’m thinking that even 6 year olds should be able to assess themselves. If we give them the tools and expectations.”
Since then, I’ve done a TON of reading about what Dean and assessment expert Rick Stiggins call “student involved assessment.” Perhaps more importantly, I’ve tried a TON of different strategies for giving my students more chances to assess their learning.
My reasons are philosophical — I really DO think that grades are far less important and practical than we make them out to be. And don’t take MY word for it: Grant Wiggins calls grades an “utterly useless” source of actionable feedback for ANYONE.
My reasons are also practical — I KNOW how important regular feedback on progress can be to building the confidence of learners, but I ALSO KNOW that there are TOO MANY students on my caseload for me to be the ONLY assessor providing feedback!
If my students are TRULY going to reflect daily on their progress towards mastering essential outcomes, they HAVE to become skilled at spotting trends in their OWN learning.
By and large, the experience has been a positive one. I’ve learned that my students really CAN assess themselves accurately and really DO enjoy having regular opportunities to track their own progress and growth. Those results were pretty surprising, to be honest — but they’ve left me looking to find MORE ways to integrate self-assessment into the work that I do with students.
This week, I tried a new Rick Stiggins inspired activity that was designed to help my kids reflect on the progress that they had made in our recent unit on energy.
You can see it here:
Having just finished all of the lessons and assessments for our unit, I asked my students to look back over the tests that we took to spot patterns in their mastery.
While it’s not clearly detailed on the Unit Analysis form embedded above, I also asked them to confirm the patterns that they were spotting in the other assignments that we tackled during the unit.
Then, I asked my students to think about what they would tell their parents about their progress towards mastering the content covered in our unit. “What can you be proud of?” I prompted. “What are you still working to master? What in the patterns of progress that you are spotting has left you surprised? Concerned?”
My goal is to eventually ask every student to fill out an analysis form at the end of every unit — and then to prepare every student to actually HAVE conversations with their parents about the progress that they are making towards mastering the essential content in our curriculum.
So whaddya’ think?
Does this activity have any merit?
What do you like about it? What would you change about it?
Related Radical Reads: