Students can assess themselves!

Traditional grading practices centered around teachers collecting student papers and giving letter grades with little real feedback — the kind of practices that are uncomfortably common in some classrooms — are failing our students. Source: Bill Ferriter. He is quoting Dean Shareski and his post about “Adventures on assessment”. I’m pretty sure they have something like this in mind, and I agree, this is not as far from the truth as we would wish it was! See video below!

“So I’m wondering if you’re ready to let your students assess themselves. Not as some experiment where you end up grading them apart but where you really give the reigns over to them? If not, is it about trust? Is it about readiness? Fear?

I’m thinking that even 6 year olds should be able to assess themselves. If we give them the tools and expectations.” Dean Shareski

You have to begin to weigh formative versus summative assessment.” 

We have to be clear that we are talking about summative assessment here.  Formative assessments are on-going assessments, reviews, and observations in a classroom. Teachers use formative assessment to improve instructional methods and student feedback throughout the teaching and learning process. Dr. Robert J. Marzano details the specific benefits of formative assessment—assessment that is used during instruction rather than at the end of a course or unit in his book “Formative Assessment & Standard based grading

Continuous formative assessment in the classroom led by the teachers,should in my opinion lead to students being able to assess themselves. This is something they should learn at school and as Dean says, probably from year 1. Another point he makes is that we should stop calling what we do “life long learning” if we’re not going to empower our students to think, learn and assess for themselves.

Different ways to assess


In a traditional school we have tests with pencil and paper. Even if the students are equipped with laptops, they are not used for tests because it is an easy way to cheat. Using notes taken in class is considered cheating by many teachers. That means one of the qualities we are testing is the students’ ability to remember facts and numbers. Even if the teachers allow the students to use the computers during the tests, most likely the teachers made the test and the questions. Why? Shouldn’t the students be allowed to decide when they want to be tested and how? Shouldn’t they be allowed to show mastery in many ways, not just during a test? Do they need to be tested all the time? Could we even relieve the heavy burden of grading papers for the teachers this way?

If the students were to decide what would they say?

In preparation for the book we are writing in class we have asked students how they want to be assessed. It comes as no surprise that students who do well in traditional tests would like business to go on as usual. But if you questions your students and give them some alternatives, then you get an interesting discussion. One size fits all? Hardly, perhaps by offering more choices you will avoid teachers like our example above. Here is what the students in my class have to say. Perhaps you could encourage your students to take part in the discussion as well?

Dylan Williams

Students do not learn what we teach. No matter how carefully we prepare and deliver our lessons, it is impossible to predict with any certainty what students will learn as a result. That is why the most effective formative assessment does not happen after the learning. It happens within and between lessons. In other words, it is embedded in the minute-to-minute and day-by-day practice of teachers. Video about this here

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