Learning Centered Assessment
Becoming a reflective practitioner is a course objective and learning goal for the DMin class that immediately precedes mine. I hope to build on it in my course, so I state one of my course goals as simply to “enhance students’ self-awareness as reflective practitioners.” This will involve a series of self-evaluations relating to other course goals, plus one or two learning goals students have identified for themselves at the beginning of the semester.
Because these students are all professionals (between the ages of 35-50), most of them will be more mature than undergrads in their capacities for self-assessment, although I continue to appreciate how most of us professionals remain skilled in self-deception, or false notions of ourselves. This is why I appreciate a communal assessment process that compliments the communal learning process. Sometimes I am far more critical of myself than I need to be. Others will observe greater strength, wisdom, or skill than I think I have. And I also have the capacity to be unaware of my areas of growth, to overestimate my accomplishments or skills– as students often do when they receive their final grades. It takes a community of mature, careful observers and peers to contribute to this assessment process so that it is truly formative and honest.
So, to develop a practical process of self-assessment and communal response, I can imagine students working in small cohorts in a four-step process that mirrors some of the steps in Rolheiser and Ross’ Student Self-Evaluation: What Research Says and What Practice Shows. The two differences here are my emphasis on peer responses – made possible by the maturity of our students – and the final action plan that reflects Dweck’s design.
- Students would help design the self-evaluation form/questions. This allows older, more mature students to assume control over this process, to honor the learning goals they identified at the beginning of the term, and to develop a process that feels safe and constructive. These particular doctoral students are also informed about why they enrolled in the DMin program, so will have those specific professional goals in mind.
- Each student would periodically complete the self-evaluation and submit it to the instructor, as well as to their small cohort of peers (two other students with whom they work throughout the semester on various contextual projects and social analysis tasks).
- The three students would then reflect with one another – perhaps with the instructor overhearing the conversation in a synchronous session – about the self-evaluation each has written.
- Each student would then design an action plan in response to the conversation with their cohorts.
The emphasis – influenced by Carol Dweck’s work – will be on effort and growth, with an action plan that students design together to chart action/reflection needed to promote and sustain the professional growth they have targeted.
Hopefully this will also model for students a way of engaging in staff evaluations as most of the students serve on a staff of a congregation or hospital chaplaincy office.
The devil is in the details. Most of our authors have been helpful to point out that the assessment process – both self-evaluations and instructor assessments of students – must be detailed and clear so there will be shared meaning. The particular expertise, knowledge, skill, practice, and characteristic being evaluated needs to be precise, as will the measurements of outcomes. (see Assessment Primer, Bloom’s Taxonomies, p. 9f; Online Assessment Strategies: A Primer, pp. 300f).