It’s pretty difficult to get someone to accurately self-assess, no matter what the circumstances. Too often we’re concerned with what someone else will think of our assessment, and our confidence levels (low or high) get in the way of letting us see our true abilities and accomplishments. Previously, when we asked students to tell us how they did on an assignment, usually one of three scenarios occurred:
- they are unfairly hard on themselves
- they inflate their grade because they “put a lot of work into it”
- they’re so unclear about the criteria that they have no idea how to score their work
Our students were no exception, and we wanted to change that when we began implementing the Inquiry Learning Plan (ILP).
Getting students familiar with the assessment criteria contained in the standards is the first step in this process. However, in order to accurately assess, students need to become intimately familiar with the nuances of the standards and ways in which they can go beyond their basic requirements. Therefore, students generate their own rubrics for each of the standards, which we will then use to assess their activities.
To keep things simple, we give them a blank template with three categories: developing, proficient, and advanced proficient. We equate those to D-F range, C range, and A range, respectively. Proficient work, we tell them, is meeting the standard. Work in this range shows competency with the requirements of the standard. Advanced proficient should extend the standard, not just do more of it. We discuss what it means to go beyond the requirements, not just to meet them. Lastly, work that falls in the developing category might represent someone’s first attempt at the skill or content and, as a result, falls short of demonstrating proficiency. Of course, the rubrics are given feedback and approved before they are finalized; it is through this process that students internalize the standards that we introduced them to earlier and become intimately familiar with these skills.
The assessment process continues in student-led conferences during which students discuss the evidence of proficiency found in their activities and final assessment. It provides the opportunity for them to reflect upon and discuss what they intended to do versus what the evidence shows. By articulating any gaps, they can recognize areas for improvement, and by pointing to examples of their work that meets the standard requirements, students can see real growth. This reflection is one of the keys to learning, and although it doesn’t specifically count toward a grade, it demonstrates to us a student’s understanding of a standard on a deeper level than the product alone ever could. Assessment becomes more than a final grade; it is a self-reflection, an opportunity for students to learn from an assessment so they can transfer skills and knowledge, and a discussion of learning itself.