Reflecting for Learning

Ramsey Musallam has great ideas about using Google Forms to assess a student’s understanding of a video after they watched it. I immediately began using his forms as a model to assess whether or not my students grasped the concept. It worked great, and I got a lot of valuable data in the process.

Last year, I did the same thing, but with a slightly different twist: I asked students to rate their comfort with a particular concept on a 1-4 scale. Then, they had to explain why they felt that way and what they could show me to prove their level of understanding. I did this for a couple reasons. One, I could target students that felt uncomfortable or shaky without calling them out in the front of class. Two, it totally changed the grading discussion in class.

Rather than assigning grades, I began discussing grades with my students. They would come with their assessment, and then I would have a very specific discussion with them about why they felt the way they did. More often than not, if they were able to explain their reasoning, show some evidence, and give a plan for improvement or extension, their assessment went right into the grade book. They didn’t feel like I was being unfair, and they knew the expectations for meaningful assessment would be their own.

First, I created a simple Google form. If you’re doing this for the first time, be sure to include a space for their last name and class hour for sorting purposes. I forgot class hour once, and it was a bear to work through.

Second, keep your ranking system on an even (2,4,6 etc) scale. In odd scales, kids tend to rank themselves in the middle. Sometimes this is because they don’t want to grade themselves too high or too hard. I don’t feel like I got 100% honest assessments that way. An even scale forces them to choose on the higher or lower end.

Third, the form doesn’t do everything. You need to be sure to talk with your students as often as you can…at least three times a week. Otherwise, they’ll begin taking advantage of the system because they figure you won’t be checking too often. It’ll save yourself some trouble.

Fourth, encourage them to set improvement plans and then reassess for a higher grade when they feel ready. It’s up to you if you want to wait for a quiz or other check, but I encourage them to reevaluate their learning frequently.

This year, I’m going to try and include the blogging process more. I might add a box for them to paste a longer, weekly reflection of their learning on their blogs.

The most important thing is to promote reflection in learning at every stage. Kids are trained from year one in school that learning happens in discrete little chunks that begin with something fun and end with a test. We need to work hard to change that mindset, and one way to do that is through promoting a regular self-evaluation like this one. It isn’t perfect, but it has worked well for me in the past and I’m hoping that you can take something away from this as well.

If you have another way to check student learning through reflection, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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