Student Well-Being Opinion

Students Can Grade Themselves When We Make It About Learning

By Starr Sackstein — January 10, 2016 2 min read
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Grading is the most arduous part of teaching, most teachers would agree. It’s subjective and onerous and often diminishes the great learning that transpires in our spaces.

When students are reduced to a single letter or number grade, the process of learning is a by-product rather than the central result.

So if we have to grade (as is the case with most current systems), we must include students in this process and allow them to tell us what they know. This shows a student we trust them and are invested in helping them grow as learners.

Nothing helps a child succeed more than an educator’s belief and support that he/she can. This additional level of confidence helps that student to achieve great depths beyond where he or she ever realized possible.

Over a period of time, students can learn to assess their level of mastery against standards when it becomes an expectation in our classes.

Watch the below video of a student “grading conference":

Note the student’s comfort talking about her learning; the way she is able to articulate areas of growth and areas in need of continued growth. She talks about specific elements of her papers to show evidence of learning and has a clear and realistic viewpoint on her level of mastery.

Although this particular student is one that functions on the higher end of mastery, even lower functioning students can be taught to honestly review their learning with differentiated methods like checklists and comparison assignments.

Try the following:

  • Consider offering them the chance to review an early assignment and compare it to a newer one. Ask them to review the feedback provided at the time and any subsequent feedback provided along the way. Actually have them highlight differences and transfer them to another place.
  • Provide a list of standards, allow students to rewrite them if they haven’t already and ask them to point to areas in their work where they are meeting or exceeding them or conversely, where they need continued work.
  • Offer them a Google form with specific questions to help them think about themselves as learners.
  • Continue to have honest conversations about what you see after work is handed in. If written feedback isn’t communicating the learning well enough, consider video, voice or in person conferences to go over assignments wherever possible.
  • Have students reflect regularly about learning and provide feedback about the level of reflection. Do NOT grade reflections, rather encourage them as a part of the learning process and continue the conversation of learning through them.
  • Provide strategies for improvement on-going and teach students to track their progress appropriately. This will help them be able to discuss learning at the end of the semester in a cohesive and coherent manner.

Although doing report card grades is my least favorite part of teaching, working with students to determine an appropriate level of learning has greatly improved the experience. I love to list to students talk about what they are most proud of and read their answers to their forms. It’s as much an opportunity for them to reflect as it is for me.

How do you involve students in the grading process? Please share

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.