This week I had my first observation by my field instructor which prompted conversations about how to have students in the primary grades assess themselves. My lesson was a science writing lesson in which the students had to write two sentences: one saying what they did and one saying what they saw as a result of what they did. They also had to draw a picture portraying what they wrote with at least one of the materials used during science labeled. I repeated these three requirements many times and wrote them on the board as well. What I listed in my lesson plan for how students would self-assess is that they would check they had done these three things and then have a partner check for the three criteria before signing off on the work. When I collected their papers, 16 students out of 21 had all three criteria, two were borderline on one of the criteria, and 3 only had two of the criteria.
My field instructor advised I provide a rubric for the students showing what a 1, 2, 3, or 4, would be, then she quickly had to rush to another observation. My cooperating teacher and I discussed this. We both worried it would put too much emphasis on grades, training students to only be concerned with what they HAD to do to obtain a 3 or 4, rather than having the emphasis be on learning and working hard. Later that afternoon in further conversation with my field instructor, she suggested a smiley face to sad face scale for the students to check off instead of number scores. Both my cooperating teacher and I felt more comfortable with this version of a rubric.
What have you seen or used, particularly with younger students? What are your feelings about student self assessment?
My daughter’s first report card with the traditional grading system, A – F, is coming out this week. Because most of the teachers have grades accessible to parents and students along the way online these days, we already know her grades. She is doing fabulously in all of her classes except for two, and it has been really interesting to think about her, my husband’s, and my reactions to these grades. Throughout elementary school, she was graded on the 1 – 4 system with each subject area broken down into many criteria of learning goals. It was emphasized to her and us that 4’s are extremely rare and a student has to consistently go above and beyond in order to obtain a 4. 3’s were considered to be pretty great, although I must admit, those 3’s always seemed like B’s to me and to my husband. It is amazing how difficult it is for us to really shift our thinking or even remember that “B” means good.
As a teacher, will it be difficult not to give my students whom I think are doing really well a 4, when 4 is supposed to be consistently above and beyond? Fortunately or unfortunately, school districts have a whole list of criteria for each subject area at the elementary level, so hopefully this will make it easier for me to look at each learning area and / or skill of a subject area and evaluate it as objectively as I possibly can using evidence (so as not to over give 4’s). My daughter’s middle school with the A – F grading system does not have multiple criteria on the report card for each subject area, so it is a little bit harder for a parent (as in my husband and I) to see that overall grade and not freak out over C’s and below or celebrate A’s! For instance, the blow of a less desirable grade would really be softened if we knew our daughter was outstanding at contributing in class but making a lot of mistakes on her computation. It would also be more useful to know exactly what area or areas need more attention.
The really interesting thing is my daughter is not freaking out as much as I think I would be, (except for some tears shed over our discussion about the grades in one of the classes). The two classes in which she did not do well had tests that were still graded on the 1 – 4 scale and then translated to letter grades at the end of the trimester. My daughter sees a 2.6 as almost a 3 which has always been a good grade so far in her educational life. My husband and I see it as a C which we do not consider to be good. So, what I am thinking about as a teacher is, does the 1 – 4 system in elementary school make a student not go for the 4 since they are almost impossible to earn, and then therefore translate into not going for the A later? Or, should we keep the 1 – 4 number system going through 12th grade, especially with lots of criteria within each subject area to assess? It is more work for the teacher but actually more accurate and useful information for students, parents, and teachers. After all, I for the most part made A’s and B’s in math, but then realized later in life when sections of a standardized test were divided into and graded by categories within each subject area that I am terrible at measurement and estimation. Because my overall math scores were always good, this was a surprise to me to see this one area that needed a lot of work.
I am beginning to warm up to this 1 – 4 system with lots of criteria within each subject area. Pros and cons, anybody?