Incorporating student self-assessment

I like the idea presented in “Student Self-Evaluation: What Research Says and What Practice Shows” (by Rolheiser and Ross), that students can find increased motivation and understanding when they are taught to assess their own progress. The authors qualify this by saying that students must have known standards against which to compare their work, and that the instructor remains important in being in conversation with students and checking in on student progress.

I often try to teach students self-assessment kinds of things, because I know they will go on to use the Bible in their work, and I would prefer that they actually use what I try to teach in class rather than ignore it. 🙂 So I have a list, for example, of what constitutes a good “research question” when they are getting ready to explore a text. I want to teach them how to ask the right kinds of questions, because often students end up with bad results simply because they aren’t asking a question that is likely to be fruitful.

I could easily turn this into a self-assessment rather than a post that is graded by me. They can use the same list about the research question as a rubric to assess the question that they are researching for that week. This would probably be more helpful than my doing it because it would mean that they would have to go back and look at the criteria at least once, and so it would reinforce what I’m trying to teach.

The difficult thing about student self-assessment is teaching them what the criteria are. I don’t think the authors of the article really let on how difficult this can be. It reminds me of when I was teaching undergraduate writing intensive courses, and I realized at some point that I really had to teach them what the difference was between high school and college writing, and then teach them to recognize when they were and weren’t doing that in their own papers. Not easy! But definitely worth doing, since if they can recognize it they are a lot closer to being able to do it consistently.

4 comments

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  1. Susan – this is just a wonderful post! You point out something so important here, and that is question design. It sounds to me that you have gone to the very core of self-assessment—the best place to start. Knowing how to write or ask the right kinds of questions is essential to any assessment, and this skill can be applied to a lifetime of learning.

    I think you also bring up excellent points on rubrics and modeling. Providing learners with an example of the expectation, and training them to see what you see, imparts on them an extremely effective skill. The end result is not only higher quality work, but mastery of the content is taken to another level.

    Thanks, Susan. Great work here.

    Stephanie

  2. Susan,
    As I think about our Candler MDiv and DMin students, I wonder how their congregations could also participate in the assessments of how our students use the Bible in their work – preaching, teaching Sunday School classes or Bible studies, rely on scripture for shaping pastoral prayers or liturgy, etc. I raise this question because our students come from such different theological/ethnic/denominational cultures that to have their layleaders help us, the instructors, know that our students may not be engaging scripture in ways true to their tradition. Of course this adds one more damn layer of work, but just a thought. Audience matters a great deal here.
    David J.

    • Kristy Martyn on July 17, 2014 at 8:56 pm
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    Susan, your thoughts about incorporating student assessment help me to see how to motivate students by teaching them to assess their own progress. I am learning from your post and the comments that to do this students need known standards to compare their work and training to recognize them, examples of expectations, as well as an instructor to mentor/facilitate students progress. I also think we need others (e.g., congregations as David suggests, or in health care, patients/families and other members of the health care team) to ensure we are asking the right questions. Seems like lots of work, but worth it when it works! Kristy

  3. Hi Susan, to echo everyone else here, this was a great post. And it just so happens that it’s very useful to me as well, because one of my assignments in my (nonexistent-but-created-for-this-class) Information Literacy course is to have them design a useable research question that is the basis for the rest of their work in the class. Your post made me consider having the class create a rubric for assessing research questions after they do the Research Question tutorial. I think that would solidify the information they have taken in.

    I agree that the right question goes a long way toward making a valuable research project. As I said in reply to your reply to my post, most professors assume students know how to write a scholarly paper. They aren’t willing to spend the time in class on such matters (understandable, as they have so much else to cover) even though the rewards could be worth it.

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