Student Led Assessments Revisited

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog on student led assessments, boasting on how I let my grade eight students design their own assessment. I was feeling quite proud of myself for “letting go” of the ties that bind students to the interests and whims of the teacher. (I was also feeling quite proud about the students, and still do, for the idea and result was positively gangster). But my self-pride was soon dashed when a fellow teacher commented on my post with an innocent, ego-withering question: “did you let the students assess the work themselves?” Well, … hmmmm… I err, you see…   The truth is I had not, in fact the thought had not even occurred to me.

Having mulled over the idea of letting students assess their own work for a few days, I tried it out on my ninth graders. The project was a video collaboration, and the students were asked to first give a mark for the project as a whole, and second to give a mark for each student in the group, according to their contribution. The results were surprising. I discovered that in many cases the students were more severe judges of their own work than I was. Roughly 80% of the students gave themselves lower marks than I had intended on giving them. Moreover, the comments students provided as justification revealed a mature understanding of the project– critiques of the transitions, cinematography, the impact of certain juxtapositions. I was impressed. The final mark was something of a negotiation between what I felt was appropriate, and the students self-assessment.

I will definitely, definitely encourage more student assessments in the future. However, I have decided to limit these to formative assessments, rather than summative. For the marks that can make or break a students academic trajectory, I’m thus far unwilling to transfer the responsibility to the student. I suspect this would be a recipe for a flipped-out parent, and a very uncomfortable meeting in the principals office.

Every time I’ve transferred control from myself to the students, in the form of designing assessments, and assessing those assessments, the results have been incredibly positive. I highly recommend this to any teacher out there agonizing over the prospect of “letting go.” Try it out, you’ll be glad you did…