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Our Motivating Questions

Howard Hoffman pic h003

Howard Hoffman, On Life: "If you always do what you always did, you'll always get what you always got."


Our particular interest is in the question of self-assessment and its relation to broader conversations about assessment at the College and beyond.  We are motivated by questions each of us has about responding to:

  • diversity of students
  • the tension we perceive between nurturing thinking and evaluating thinking
  • the difficulties grading poses to teaching and learning relationships
  • the artificiality of grading as compared with the work of problem-solving and leadership ("What does the professor want?")
  • the need to open students' minds to ways of working and valuing their work that go beyond standardized measures so potent in this era


These were some of the initial questions seeding our discussion:

  • What is a range of useful ways to engage students in charting their learning goals and measuring their progress towards them?
  • How might self-assessment assignments encourage students to  integrate course goals with broader academic and personal interests of their own?
  • What is the relation between students' self-assessing as individuals and sharing in joint course assessment, as in midcourse feedback?
  • What is the relation between students' and instructors' work as assessors of student learning?
  • What are the implications of this course-level inquiry for  departmental and college-level assessment efforts?
  • Can we experiment with this in good faith, given working within a competitive structure?


Serendip Visitor's picture

Motivating Questions

How does one develop midcourse feedback? Can you think of some examples please?
Your exchange here made me think about assessments that hold meaning for the students -- about using developmental portfolios, that they are worth making time for.

K-12 teachers are expected to identify students' deficits post testing, to sit and hold compelling conversations with students who have lower than proficient scores. We are told this will benefit the student and increase test scores. Well, then, why not the portfolios? A printout of data is pretty meaningless to students; whereas the student's own work is meaningful. Wouldn't it be easier for them to comprehend specifically what to work on when viewing their work instead of a graph? What about the self actualization as the person evaluates her own work? And wouldn't it be easier to swallow if it weren't simply "this is where you're lacking…" but instead were prefaced with "Let's look at what you do well and describe how you do that, and then move on to a few things you wish you could improve…"

I'm glad to read this exchange of information as it has rekindled those thoughts about student growth portfolios as authentic measures or assessments. While teachers watch the clock, measuring the testritional value of every morsel they feed students every minute of their 180 days together, growth portfolios are absolutely worth the time.

I'll be grateful to continue to read your discussions and what develops next, esp. regarding self assessment and collaborative assessment between student and teacher.
Thank you.
B Gifford, teacher

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