Social Sundays: Strategies for teaching students to self-assess

One part of student-centered learning that often gets forgotten or omitted all together is self-assessment.  We do peer assessment and teacher assessment, but students are often their own best  (or worst) critics.  Guiding students to be independent in assessing themselves is an important strategy in helping them to become independent learners.  

Here are 3 effective strategies we use in our class:

  • Student-designed rubric: when we start a project, I have students work in groups to develop a rubric.  I give them a basic rubric that is broad enough for any topic, and then they edit it to the point that it meets the specific parameters of the project.  Students have high expectations for what makes quality work.  I find my student design even more rigorous rubrics, sometimes, than I do.  When they have designed the rubric themselves, they know what they are aiming for.  When we complete the project, I have students assess themselves, write about where they could have done better, and create strategies for improvement for the next time. This last piece is key.  Students begin to take ownership for incomplete work. They discover that they didn't leave enough time, didn't ask for help soon enough, rushed through because they chose to do something else, or didn't plan well.  It is more often a lack of a coherent strategy than a lack of skills that become their shortfalls.
  • Self-reflection for now and the future: another self-assessment activity we do is to write a letter about what they have learned and challenges they encountered.  Sometimes we address our letters to next year's students.  With students' permission I share these anonymously with future students early in the year, so that they can learn about what challenges they might encounter and strategies for overcoming this challenges.
  • Student-led conferences: parent-teacher conferences have become parent-teacher-student conferences with students leading the conferences.  I have students create a small portfolio of work that includes not only pieces they are proud of, but also pieces that represent challenges and learning opportunities.  Students select the work and explain not only what they did but also the challenges that they overcome and aspects that could be improved upon.  At this conference student present future goals and invite both their parent/guardian and myself to be part of supporting their goals.  We outline specific ways we can provide support and everyone signs a contract.  Students benefit from knowing that not only are their responsible for their learning but also that they have a support system to help them get where they are going. 
The benefits of student-assessment are immense, but I will sum it up with a change in my students.  Students develop a positive identity between themselves and school.  "I used to hate school.  I didn't do well, and I didn't know why," wrote one student. "Now, I know how to change things so I can do better.  Now, I'm one of the good students, and I like that."

Social Sundays is a bi-weekly post sharing tips, ideas, resources, and products for teaching social studies.  If you have questions or think there is something I should share, you can leave me a message in the comments below or at the store in the question and answer section.