Student reviews assignment. October 25, 2017

Helping Students Recognize Quality Work, Fix What Isn’t Good

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How good are your students at assessing the quality of their work? Do they understand and act on the feedback you provide? I’ll wager that some students do. But the rest—they don’t know if what they’re turning in is good, not so good, or what they were supposed to do. If you ask how an assignment turned out, most students are fearfully noncommittal. The verbally confident proclaim that it’s excellent and hope you’ll remember that when you grade it. And this inability to ascertain quality and shortcomings applies to papers, essay answers, proposed solutions to open-ended messy problems, creative performances (artistic, musical, for example), and engineering and architectural projects.


Student typing on laptop August 17, 2015

Personal Goals: An Exercise in Student Self-Assessment

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This summer I am reading Linda Nilson’s book Creating Self-Regulated Learners: Strategies to Strengthen Students’ Self-Awareness and Learning Skills, which offers instructors a wealth of assignments and activities to help students grow their self-regulation and metacognitive abilities. Teaching students how to learn well on their own and to evaluate that learning is a goal I have been pursuing for the past few years, and I am convinced that occasional, brief self-assessment exercises can help college students perform better as well as understand the learning process.


April 24, 2015

Helping Students Who Are Performing Poorly

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Unfortunately, all too often performance on the first exam predicts performance throughout the course, especially for those students who do poorly on the first test. Faculty and institutions provide an array of supports for these students, including review sessions, time with tutors, more practice problems, and extra office hours, but it always seems it’s the students who are doing well who take advantage of these extra learning opportunities. How to help the students who need the help is a challenging proposition.


December 10, 2014

Developing Students’ Self-Assessment Skills

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I’ve been rereading some of the research on student self-assessment and thinking about how students develop these skills. They are important in college, all but essential in most professions, but they’re rarely taught explicitly. We assume (or hope) they’re the kind of skills student can pick up on their own, even though most of us see evidence to the contrary. Many students, especially beginning ones, routinely overestimate their ability and underestimate the difficulty of course content. How often did I hear this comment about my courses: “A communication course? Gotta be a piece of cake. I’ve been talking since I was 3.”


April 1, 2013

Assessment as an Opportunity for Developing Independent Thinking Skills in Students

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The liberal arts college where I teach recently underwent review for accreditation. Like many other colleges and universities, we were criticized for our lack of assessment. Faculty resistance, it seems, may be the biggest barrier to implementing institutional assessment measures (Katz, 2010; Weimer, 2013). Both Weimer and Katz accredited faculty resistance to fears that assessment data could be used for “comparison shopping” and “educational consumerism.” While these fears are justified, at my college another fear prevails; the fear that assessment will lead to hand-holding strategies that will discourage independent thought in our students and result in failure to adequately prepare them for professional life.


February 1, 2012

Student Self-Assessment: A Sample Assignment

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For me examples are like pictures; worth a 1,000 words. In the previous post I wrote about the need to intervene in the development of student self-assessment skills, leaving the process less to chance and making it more the result of purposeful intervention. At a recent Teaching Professor Workshop, I saw an assignment that illustrates that kind of intervention. It was from a 100-level, Introduction to U.S. Government course, but is adaptable to any course. The assignment has two parts and they are the first and last pieces of work students complete in the course.


January 27, 2012

Developing Student Self-Assessment Skills

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Our interest in more learner-centered instruction has changed the way many of us think about teaching as well as what we do in the classroom. We are devoting more energy to getting students involved during class. We are trying to give them more opportunities to practice those learning skills that expedite learning. We let them summarize the content; rather than doing it for them. We try to have them ask more questions than we do. We design activities which encourage them to learn from and with each other.


July 30, 2010

What it Means to be a Self-Regulated Learner

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“Self-regulation is not a mental ability or an academic performance skill; rather it is the self-directive process by which learners transform their mental abilities into academic skills.” (p. 65) That definition is offered by Barry Zimmerman, one of the foremost researchers on self-regulated learning. It appears in a succinct five-page article that offers a very readable overview of research in this area.


June 18, 2010

Self-Assessment Does Not Necessarily Mean Self-Grading

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Most faculty judiciously avoid having students self-assess because it seems hopelessly naïve to imagine them being able to look at anything beyond the desired grade. Even so, the ability to self-assess skills and completed work is important. Moreover, it is an ability acquired with practice and developed with feedback. It seems like the kind of skill that should be addressed in college. And perhaps there is a way.