School is all about evaluation. Everything from written work to behavior to how neatly one keeps one’s desk is up for judgement. And then of course there are those endless batteries of standardized tests. While this is the easiest and perhaps most effective way to get the desired result, ultimately, it can have harmful results. Among other things, it trains children to look for external validation, discourages them from taking academic risks, and restrict creativity to the narrow band of what is required.
Rather than constantly bombarding children with external evaluations, we can, at least on some occasions, encourage them to evaluate themselves. Here are some ways to facilitate self-evaluation.
Rather than pointing out what is wrong or even right, ask questions that encourage students to look more closely at their work. Some ideas:
- What did you mean when…
- Why did you…
- I’m wondering about…
- How did you feel about…
- What are three things you like about…
- What are three things you might have done differently?
- How could you improve…
Teachers often use rubrics for grading. Consider having students use the rubric to grade themselves. You could use this in addition to your own use of the rubric or you could conference with the child after he or she has done the rubric and come up with a final grading together. Ideally, the project doesn’t have to end there. More learning can take place if students are given the opportunity to correct what went wrong and resubmit the project.
Encourage Student to Self-Check
It is much more empowering to find and correct one’s own mistakes rather than having them pointed out by a third party. Some ways students can self-correct:
- Have students read essays, reports and other written work out loud. Often you hear mistakes that you don’t see.
- Have an easily accessible list of words that are frequently misspelled, possibly on a poster.
- Have a check list of things students should always look for in written work such as beginning with a capital letter, including end marks, neatness etc. before they turn it in.
- Allow students to use answer keys to check their own work
- If correcting papers as a group, allow students to correct their own papers rather than trading with a neighbor. Trading papers can be embarrassing for a struggling student.
Setting goals is a great skill for kids to learn. By identifying a challenging yet attainable goal, writing it down, and making a plan for action, students learn that they can make real and worthwhile changes. Here is a free Student Goal Setting Worksheet.
Skip the Grade
Does everything always have to be evaluated? Try doing an assignment and telling the students that while you will read it, it will NOT be graded. See what happens.