When students appear disengaged and can’t connect to your subject matter after days or weeks of explanation, how do you encourage them to take that next step in their learning? Do they even care? What if the answer goes back to the beginning of the term and what their own goals were?
I’ve been thinking about something a lot lately: do students even know where they’re going with their learning? Have they set any goals for the semester: personal, social, academic?
I feel that as teachers, we have a responsibility to help students learn to set goals for themselves. Our province’s new curriculum encourages considerable amounts of introspection and metacognitive journalling by the students (reflection assignments, personal portfolios, etc.) in order that the students get comfortable with analysing themselves and their own work. So, in a similar vein, why should we as teachers be the only ones assessing the students? If their goals are defined, perhaps only the students themselves will have any idea how to achieve them and/or know when they have in fact been achieved.
It is because of this realisation that I feel self-assessment could be integrated more heavily in the way my future classroom is run:
- giving the students a general idea of where the course is going,
- letting them set their own personal goals for progress and achievement,
- giving them regular opportunities to reassess themselves and evaluate their own progress, and
- acknowledging and appreciating the progress they make
Let me briefly expand on that last point: I’m not suggesting that teachers flatter their students and say that everyone is doing equally well all the time; both research and my personal experience have shown that doesn’t necessarily motivate students to succeed. However, students who struggle with self-confidence, or students whose journey to success might have taken a while longer than others, might not know how far they’ve truly come because they’re comparing their achievements with others. Being able to use evidence in order to convince students of their success seems to be a better approach.
In that vein, I believe student self-assessment could work quite well. If the students are given specific time to reflect on what it is they’ve accomplished and what it is they would like to achieve, perhaps that will both encourage the students to own their learning and help them recognise that they’ve accomplished more than they think they have. It also carries the benefit of forcing the student to think about a concept again and reanalyse it, which helps keep the skill fresh. Finally, self-assessment correlates quite nicely with a few of the new BC curriculum’s core competencies, such as Critical Thinking and Personal Identity.
It is an intriguing subject I would love to learn more about and see in practice more often.