Learning Centered Strategies – for older professional students

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.


  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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).



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  1. Hi David – I’ve been thinking quite a bit about some of the differences between your students in the DMin program and my undergraduates. I really like the peer evaluation piece you’ve proposed for the small cohort of students. I think you hit the nail on the head when you describe the process as “safe and constructive.” Practicing professionals will be able to leverage this model, I think, and use the feedback they are getting. There is a lot of literature on peer review in teams or groupwork, and several models for assessing it are proposed. Undergraduates tend not to see group work as safe or constructive, and yet they often are reluctant to ‘snitch” on their free-rider group members. I think you are wise to think ahead to having clear, detailed evauations, and that may take several iterations before you include all the most common issues, don’t you think?

    1. Ann, rubrics (for professional adults) that help shape safe and constructive self-assessments and peer assessments are still a mystery to me, so I think you’re absolutely right that I’ll have to venture into the deep and keep asking for wise reviews from colleagues, then test them on a group of students before putting them into play. Most of our students do 360 staff reviews, but I suspect because of the power dynamics in a staff in which some could actually get fired or promoted, there will be ongoing concerns about being safe.
      Thank you.

    • Susan Hylen on July 18, 2014 at 3:56 pm
    • Reply

    David, I really like your ideas about having the students design the self-assessment form. Often when I use a rubric it is one I have designed, and the students don’t get any input. But it makes me think that it could be very valuable to have the students come up with the categories that are being evaluated and what weight should be assigned to each. It could help them to be more reflective about what they put into their assignment and lead to higher quality work. Thanks!

  2. Hi David,
    Your post is very thoughtful and clearly reflects the importance of understanding the learner characteristics of one’s students, as Ann also commented on. Peer evaluation would look very different, I think depending on the learner characteristics — one being adult professionals vs. undergrads. That said, I am very taken with your commitment to this and therefore am going to explore it in more detail. Also, as Susan noted, the idea of having the students design the self-assessment form I think would work with almost any type of student, and I am now eager to incorporate that into my academic writing class (for international grad students). I think it might create better ‘buy-in’ for the objectives, goals, and tasks.
    I enjoyed this conversation!

  3. P.S. David, which Dweck book are your referring to? I’ve read ‘Mindset’ and am a HUGE fan — life-changing.

      • David Jenkins on July 20, 2014 at 5:06 pm
      • Reply

      I’m with you….a big fan of Dweck’s Mindset. She also published the lesser-known Self Theories that I’ve appreciated, and made significant contributions to Succeed which she co-authored with H. G. Halvorson.

    • Ed Phillips on July 21, 2014 at 4:19 am
    • Reply


    Thanks for pointing me to Dweck’s models.
    I also do think that our D.Min. students are all likely to be a a very different level of personal and professional expertise. As I’ve said earlier, it seems to me that some of the assessment methods we’ve read (at a very superficial level) stress quantification, while a more qualitative assessment seem better suited to the doctoral level.

    I’ll look more closely at Dweck, when I get a chance.


  4. Great discussion, everyone!

    David – excellent model of self-assessment and communal response. I think you have a very nice plan in place and would love to hear about how this goes if you implement it. I think it has potential to be very successful, particularly with self-created questions by the learners. The sense of ownership that comes from this goes a long way with learners.

    • MERRIE KURTZ on July 8, 2016 at 11:48 pm
    • Reply

    Timely commentary , I Appreciate the facts . Does someone know if my company might be able to find a template a form form to fill out ?

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