Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Post#3: Setting and Using Co-Created Criteria

Anne Davies is a strong advocate for involving students in their own assessment. In Making Classroom Assessment Work, she notes that “when students work together to set criteria, self-assess, and reset criteria, they come to understand the process of assessment and they practise using the language of assessment. This way, students gain a clearer picture of what they need to learn and where they are in relation to where they need to be, making it possible for them to begin to identify next steps in their learning.” (2000, p. 8)

In the article Involving Students in Communicating About Their Learning, Davies also notes that “when students learn, self-assess, and later, when ready, show their learning and receive descriptive feedback, they are developing the skills and habits of self directed, independent, lifelong learners (p.2) . . . [and] students who have experience being involved in the classroom assessment process are better prepared to have meaningful conversations about learning with others and more ready to be partners in collecting evidence of their learning to show others” (p.3). (Retrieved from

Focus on Inquiry says that “students will learn to understand the evaluation criteria for the inquiry and evaluate their own inquiry process, using established criteria” (p. 71). This document also states that “assessment practices should involve students in identifying and/or creating criteria” (p.31).

In the Manitoba Education Citizenship and Youth document titled Independent Together, Chapter 6 addresses the idea of using Inquiry projects with multilevel learners in multilevel classroom settings and they suggest that criteria setting be included in the inquiry process. This document states, “as the inquiry proceeds, the teacher’s and students’ ongoing assessments determine opportunities for systematic instruction. Also, from the onset of the inquiry, the teacher and students begin to identify the characteristics of quality work (processes and products). As these characteristics become more sophisticated, the evolving criteria are applied to the processes used along the way and ultimately to the final process, performance, demonstration, or product. Thus, the teacher and students may discuss, for example, what a quality KWL chart, inquiry plan, or design project looks like.” (p. 6.5)

Cameron et al, in the book Knowing What Counts: Setting and Using Criteria, lay out a simple 4 step strategy to co-construct criteria with students:

Step 1: Brainstorm
Ask students, “What counts in an inquiry project?” or “What counts in the retrieving phase?
Teacher can have some input here as well.

Step 2: Sort and categorize.
Teachers ask students to help sort the list they generated together into relevant categories related to the Inquiry process.

Step 3: Make and post a T-chart
The t-chart should include criteria on one side and details about that criterion on the other side.     
Teachers ensure all students understand criteria and add details to those that need clarification.

Step 4: Add, Revise, refine.
It is important that the criteria be visible and organic. Students must be able to see, use and suggest revisions at all times.

Another good step by step guide on how to co-construct criteria with students can be found here, see BLM#2.

Cameron et al also included 10 ways to assess without putting a mark on the paper in their book Setting and Using Criteria. Here are only a few of their ideas which involve ways to use the co-constructed criteria:

1. Students compare their work to the criteria and decide MET or NOT YET MET. They then revise as needed.

2. Teachers or peers compare student work to the criteria and decide MET or NOT YET MET, but add a descriptive feedback under the category I NOTICED.

3. Students use the criteria and samples from various stages of the process to assess their own work and then they fill out a SAMPLE MATCH form describing which sample their work best matches and why and how they can improve it if necessary.

For more ideas I strongly recommend the books Knowing What Counts: Setting and Using Criteria, Knowing What Counts: Self-Assessment and Goal-Setting, as well as the third book Knowing What Counts: Conferencing and Reporting. These books are very quick and easy reads for busy teachers and teacher-librarians, but they are full of excellent applicable information.

Other good books on assessment are Making Classroom Assessment Work by Anne Davies and How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students by Susan M. Brookhart.

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