October 27, 2011

Trust your students to evaluate themselves

With our first quarter officially ending this week, it is time for reflection, self-evaluation and final report card grades. Since my students have had no points or letter grades on any activities or projects throughout the grading period, they review their production, my narrative feedback and, together, we decide on an appropriate letter grade for the report card.

My first year using this method in a Results Only Learning Environment, I was a bit nervous about this process, wondering if the students would "get it right." Subsequent school years, including this one, have been no different; I enter with trepidation. As is usually the case, my students quickly allayed my fears.

One after another, they paraded up to my desk, and we discussed the quarter. At the end of each discussion, I say, "Okay, you play teacher, and based on our discussion, tell me the letter grade."

Seventy-five percent of the students land on the exact letter I would assign, if I were grading without their input. Roughly five percent assign a grade higher than what they deserve, based on their production and how they handled my feedback. Remarkably, about 15 percent of my students assign themselves a report card grade lower than I believe they deserve. Some do it with tears in their eyes, saying their parents will be disappointed.

And, yes, students do give themselves failing grades.

I am always amazed by the honesty of these 13- and 14-year-old students. One girl in an honors-level class, who had not completed a project but had done most of the other work, quickly announced that she should have an F. "Definitely," she said, when I questioned it. "I need to do better."

This is the power of the results-only learning.