5.3.11

In which a teacher makes a self-assessment

It's getting to the end of the trimester, and so it's time for student self-assessments. I'm required to provide a short narrative report on the student's progress along with the grade, but for the past few years I have had the students write a self-assessment which I then comment upon. Usually, after they have been crafted and edited, I can just write, 'I agree,' but it requires some work to get to that point, and I have been looking for ways to improve the process.

This is the prompt I give them:
You need to write a short description (50-100 words) of how things have gone for you in English A this trimester. Look back at the work you've done since November  and our assessment criteria to help you think about these questions:

  • What am I good at?

  • In what ways have I improved?

  • What work have I been proud of?

  • In what areas do I need to work on still?

  • What kinds of Approaches to Learning (study and learning skills) have served me well, and what needs improvement?


You cannot answer all of these questions in less than 100 words, so focus on what is most important to you in your situation.

The problem has been getting students to be honest -- not to write what they think I want them to write, but to honestly describe their own strengths, challenges and areas for future growth. Last year, I made a note that perhaps I ought to write my own: not as a model of content but of the honesty and vulnerability required to do a meaningful self-assessment.

Thanks to the MYP, my students have a set of criteria and course-specific Approaches to Learning to help them with this, but I needed something as a teacher to help me do this. Today I asked my grade 10 students to identify 3-4 criteria against which teachers could be assessed. After some discussion about the difference between personality and practices, we developed three criteria:

  • Course design. How does the teacher plan the units and activities? Does the class go fast enough and slow enough? Are the units and activities interesting and designed to help students learn effectively?

  • Class management. How is the class run? Is class time used effectively? Is discipline fair? Is there a balance between the teacher talking and the students doing interesting things? Are lectures interesting? Is the teacher organized? Does the teacher have a sense of humor?

  • Assessment. Are grades fair? Are we prepared for the assignments? Are assignments given back quickly? Do we get useful feedback?


I helped them with some of the language, but the ideas were all theirs. It was an interesting conversation.

I had a break between my grade 10 class and my grade 7 class, so I sat down and wrote out my self-assessment. Here it is:
I have had a good trimester. I’ve put together a range of units and assignments, allowing for the use of technology, creativity and public performance. I have shown my enthusiasm and humor in class discussions and presentations. Class is not always as organized as I’d like, but I don’t want to give up on the spontaneity of class. I also sometimes get off topic or distract students. The biggest thing I want to do next trimester is to get student work back faster. I also need to find better ways to help students with their formal writing and proofreading skills.

I showed the grade 7s the criteria and then my self-assessment. Then I said they had five minutes to talk about my self-assessment and make any changes they wanted, putting th assessment on the SmartBoard, giving them the wireless mouse and keyboard and leaving the room. I wanted them to feel that they could make the changes anonymously. After five minutes they wanted more time, so after another five here's what I found :
I have had a good trimester. I’ve put together a range of units and assignments, allowing for the use of technology, creativity and public performance. I have shown my enthusiasm and humor in class discussions and presentations. Class is not always as organized as I’d like, but I don’t want to give up on the spontaneity of class. The biggest thing I want to do next trimester is to get student work back faster. I also need to find better ways to help students with their formal writing and proofreading skills. I could help students choose books to read on their own more.

I asked if anyone would want to share, and they said I was a little hard on myself. They like the digressions in class. Organization isn't as important as creativity. Nobody wanted to say anything about the new last sentence, but I realize this is a weakness for me. I have almost no experience with YA literature, and I have been referring them to the school librarian. I should at least maintain my list of online referral sources.

Then the 7s sat down and put together their self-assessments, and they are quite good. I noticed that none of them address their class behavior, signaling that they don't see it as relevant to their learning: I think that's a significant insight, that either it's really not or that I need to help them see the connection. Probably both.

Anyway, I'll do the same with the 10s when I see them again, and then I'll print it and stick it on my wall. Then they can do an evaluation of how I've done at the end of the year.

3 comments:

  1. I think it's great that you reflected about your teaching. I try to complete the assignments I give students too, including reflections. I find that once I complete the assignment, I'm much more sensitive to their questions and work completion. I also think it's great that you shared your thinking with your class and asked for feedback. That really empowered your students and gave them a good model for what they had to do and for reflection in general -- a very powerful life skill. I also think it's wonderful that you refer students to the librarian for help in an area you don't feel as confident about. Perhaps, that area will be the focus of a future professional development time. Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Thanks, Maureen. These are processes I'm more and more comfortable with. And making referrals between colleagues is a pretty common practice at our school: I've never really thought about it, but it is a healthy practice.

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  3. I always asked students to evaluate my teaching at the end of the year. I used this to prepare for the next year. I wish that I had thought to do it in the middle of the year like you've done. Cool.

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