October 28, 2011

The power of "Really?"

Knee-deep into the second day of self-evaluation and discussion about report card grades, I realized just how powerful a word can be.

As I wrote in Trust your students to evaluate themselves, most of my students choose the grade I would have, if I were assigning the grade, instead of asking them to do it. A very small percentage of students initially ask for a grade that seems too high, based on their production. When this happens, I respond with, "Really?" Then, I pause and silence fills the air.

This pause is important, because it sends the student back to reflection and self-evaluation. A moment later, most say, "Well, maybe the grade should be lower."

It's important to note here that I'm in no way trying to manipulate students into selecting a lower grade. In fact, I tell them that I will give them whatever grade they choose. "I want you to give an honest evaluation," I say. "When that report card arrives in the mail, you need to be satisfied that you were honest with yourself."

This honest self-evaluation is one of the most important elements of the Results Only Learning Environment.