Students using pre-assessments by creating their own self-assessing rubric and self-assessing their performance can be very meaningful.
However, infused with the characteristics of Meaningful Student Involvement presented earlier in this book, students experiences can be further enhanced by engaging them in teacher assessments, and in student-led, student-focused learning conferences where they can compare their performance to other students and set future goals. According to Berger (Berger, et al., 2014),
“Student-engaged assessment changes the primary role of assessment from evaluating and ranking students to motivating them to learn. It builds the independence, critical thinking skills, perseverance, and self-reflective understanding students need for college and careers that is required by the Common Core State Standards.”
Assessing All of Schools
When students are engaged as partners in school assessment, they can cover any element of teaching, learning and leadership. Dovetailing with curriculum and instruction, assessment focuses on students’ abilities to organize, structure and use knowledge in order to solve problems. According to Grant Wiggins,
“Assessment should be deliberately designed to improve and educate student performance, not merely audit as most school tests currently do.” (George Lucas Educational Foundation, 2008)
Meaningful Student Involvement supports this approach by positioning students as partners in assessment through both student-led assessments of themselves and of their peers.
Student self-assessment has been shown to raise student achievement significantly. Learning happens when students “confidently set goals that are moderately challenging but realistic, and then exert the effort, energy and resources needed to accomplish those goals.” Explicitly teaching students how to assess themselves not only promotes student self-confidence, but also builds and sustains learning across a variety of settings, backgrounds and goals. (Ontario Literacy and Numeracy Secretariat, 2007)
Understanding the purpose of assessment, the ways it happens and the outcomes from assessment are important to meaningfully involving students. (Harvard Family Research Project, 2002) Students learn how to assess themselves, their peers and their experiences in schools by asking key questions about education:
- Where are we now?
- Where are schools trying to go?
- What do we need to get there?
- How will we know if we have accomplished what schools are out to do?
Berger reports that the case of learning about the Civil War, student-led assessment would go beyond creating an essay only for a teacher to review. Instead, they would create a learning demonstration product for an authentic audience. For instance, a brochure could be made public for a wider group of readers. The audience may simply be other students, teachers, parents, or community members, but Berger states that students are motivated by moving beyond just teachers. (Berger, et al., 2014)
Even if student assessments are not required in schools or cannot be used for grading purposes, it is important to devote class time to doing them. They have been shown to increase student achievement and improve student behavior, as well as increase student engagement and student motivation.