When students are engaged in learning and are taught to take greater responsibility for their own learning, then increasing academic rigor is attainable. Antiquated teaching strategies such as lecturing, drilling, and rote memorization will not increase learning. These strategies may lead to small, short-term increases in high-stakes assessments, but as time goes by, the students will have little to show for their work, and little foundation to build upon the following year.
If you engage students’ minds in grappling with content through meaningful, authentic performance tasks, they will build knowledge and understanding for the long term. If you increase their responsibility for learning, offering them freedom and choice, they will be able to accomplish more, not remaining dependent on others to continue moving forward. You can then increase academic rigor through well-designed assignments, questions, differentiation, collaboration, and a host of other meaningful learning opportunities (Ventura, 2013). Students should know what success looks like and they should formally be engaged in the defining and developing of scoring rubrics for projects and performances (Stiggins, Arter, Chappuis, & Chappuis, 2004).
What is Self-Assessment?
What is student self-assessment? Do you see students grading themselves? Each and every student gives themselves an “A” regardless of how much or little work they’ve done. Self-assessment is not about asking students to give themselves grades. By definition, that’s summative evaluation. Self-assessment means engaging students in a formative process in which they compare their work to clear criteria and determine how to make improvements.
During the learning process, the opportunity to revise is essential. Self-assessment inspires students to take charge of the vision and revision process. Research shows that students who use self-assessment methods learn more, earn better grades, and receive higher test scores. Creating the right conditions for students to become their own most important resource in the assessment of their own work is within reach of every teacher who believes that students can identify their own strengths and weaknesses.
Effective self-assessment involves at least three steps:
- Clear Performance Targets: In order for self-assessment to be effective, students must have clear targets to work toward. In other words, the criteria to be successful is so understandable, students can tell teachers their score, even before teachers calculate it. To do this, students must have access to clear criteria for assignments before work on the task begins. The assessment criteria can be created by the teacher or co-created with students. The criteria can be arranged in a simple checklist or in a rubric.
- Checking Progress Towards The Targets: If we have provided students with performance targets, they can create a draft of the assignment and compare that draft to the targets. This is where actual self-assessment takes place-enabling students to identify their own strengths, errors, and misconceptions.
- Revision: Using the feedback generated from step 2, students begin to revise their initial draft, closing the gaps between their work and the targets. This step is essential. Students must be given opportunities to revise and improve their work. If they do not have this opportunity, they are unlikely to take the self-assessment process seriously.
When students are involved in creating rubrics and target areas, they gain a more concrete understanding of what is expected, and how to reach certain benchmarks. Rubrics are motivational tools for students, especially when students are involved in the process. These ideas can help create an atmosphere of student self-improvement, as opposed to another ranking system where assessment results are used as a reporting mechanism.
There are a number of ways that accurate and thoughtful assessment design can improve teaching, learning, and leadership. After all, the most important aspect about formative assessment is to help determine effective instruction. With a compelling body of evidence behind it, and strategies and techniques designed to empower students and teachers in the assessment and learning processes, implementing the research-based Common Formative Assessment 2.0 can engage students in reaching their full potential and closing their own achievement gaps and improve the quality of instruction in a way that brings teachers and students closer together through assessment.
The time to more fully embrace the promising strategy of Common Formative Assessments 2.0 for improving student learning, especially for at-risk students, is now.