Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Post # 1: Introduction

The Evaluating Phase of the Inquiry process is the phase where students engage in self-assessment of their inquiry project. This self-assessment involves both self-reflection and self-evaluation.

Self-reflection involves students looking back at goals and feedback. They reflect on whether their goals were met, how they can continue to meet goals or how they might revise or adapt the goal to meet their learning needs. While engaging in self-reflection, students also think about how work or learning could be enhanced or improved for next time. The process of self-reflection also involves revisiting goals often and setting new goals as the inquiry process proceeds and as new understanding of the inquiry process takes place. Self-reflection doesn`t just happen at the end of the inquiry, but should happen throughout the inquiry process.

On the other hand, self-evaluation involves looking back at co-created criteria, exemplars of the evolving process, and feedback from teachers and peers. Students use that information to decide whether the criteria have been met. Then students decide on what needs revising, redoing, and/or editing to meet the feedback and criteria. The process of self-evaluation also involves students and teachers revisiting the co-created criteria at the end of each stage of the inquiry or on a regular basis to ensure that the criteria still apply. As the criteria are re-evaluated students and teachers decide if revising and editing the criteria is necessary and do so together. Self-evaluation can also take place throughout the inquiry process as long as clear criteria have been set and exemplars are available for each stage of the inquiry.

In order for self-evaluation and self-reflection to take place we need to teach students to set goals, create criteria with our students, provide timely and constructive feedback, teach students to provide timely and constructive feedback to their peers and provide exemplars of the evolving process, not just best work exemplars.

What’s my context?

As I endeavour to work with the many willing teachers at my school, I need to find a way to incorporate goal setting, co-created criteria setting as well as self-reflection, self-assessment and peer feedback in meaningful and engaging ways. I also need to convince the teachers that taking yet more time to do these things are in fact in the students’ best interests, but also in their best interests as well.

What does the research say?

Anne Davies, a world renowned Canadian expert on classroom assessment practices summarizes the research on involving students in their own assessment in Making Classroom Assessment Work (2000).

According to Davies:
“When students are involved in their own assessment they are required to think about their learning and articulate their understanding, which helps them learn, . . . mistakes become feedback they can use to adjust what they are doing . . . [and] while all students show significant gains, students who usually achieve the least show the largest gains overall. Self-assessment asks students to make choices about what to focus on next in their learning. When students make choices about their learning, achievement increases; when choice is absent, learning decreases.” (p. 9)

Watch this video of Anne Davies on Classroom Assessment, note what she says about research on assessment.

Violet H. Harada and Joan Yoshina, authors of Assessing Learning: Librarians and Teachers as Partners (2005) also noted that “when students participate in the assessment process, they develop the following behaviours (Chappuis and Stiggins 2002):

• Students understand what is expected.

• They access prior knowledge.

• They have ownership over making the learning happen.

• They are able to give themselves, as well as others, descriptive feedback as they are learning.

• Assessment goes beyond measuring; it becomes motivating.” (p. 2).

The Alberta Learning document Classroom Assessment Toolkit for the ICT Program of Studies (2003) states as its second principle that “Assessment should be collaborative: Students benefit when they are involved in the assessment process. Assessment practices should help and encourage students to:

• be responsible for their own learning and develop a positive attitude toward the use of technology in meaningful, real-world situations

• be involved in establishing criteria for evaluating their products or performances

• work together to learn and achieve outcomes

• feel competent and successful using technology

• set goals for further improvements.” (p. 8, Retrieved on November 9, 2009).

This document also lists many research based reasons why self-reflection is an important process to engage our students in (see pages 19-20).

Finally, Focus on Inquiry (Alberta Learning 2004) says, “Students will be more successful in inquiry when teachers provide . . . opportunities for students to . . . review their processes of learning at the end of a lesson, day or week” (p. 37) and if they “reflect on their KWL charts and talk/write about the inquiry process and products, read their personal journals and reflect on them, . . . and use a rubric and checklist to evaluate their products and processes” (p. 71).

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