[NBCT] Self-Assessment

In the previous episode, I had given my students a formative assessment task and analyzed their responses by strategy.


I had no idea, though, how to do a meaningful self-assessment.

I liked what I ended up doing. Here is what I asked my students to work on today:


The figures are (again) taken from this Shell Center activity.

For as long as I’ve been thinking carefully about feedback and assessment, I’ve had a hard time getting excited about self-assessment. The whole point of assessment is that the assessor can direct your attention to things that you yourself have not seen. That makes self-assessment a pretty tough tool to use while you’re learning something.

If I had asked my kids “what could you have done better on this task” that would be lame. If you knew how to do something better, wouldn’t you? Unless you were lazy or tired or careless, and I’m interesting in teaching math. That other stuff is very rarely math.

My way out, though, is to reframe self-assessment as “assessing your own stuff against some other standard.”

I had noticed that some of my kids, on the initial task, weren’t finding the area using interesting structural features. Instead they were counting individual squares. That would hurt their ability to understand what the Pythagorean Theorem is saying (they wouldn’t be able to quickly check square areas) and would also hamstring their ability to understand proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem (since the proofs use those structural features).

Here is a self-assessment response from a kid who counted individual squares the first go around:


I would have described this student’s work on the initial task as strong, and her self-assessment was strong as well:


I thought this student could have dug a bit deeper.


I’d say that this activity worked at the level of “compare your approach to these two nice approaches that use nice geometric structure” for everybody, and then the rest of the activity worked well for like half the class.

So, I didn’t fall in love with self-assessment today. But I did figure out a way to do this part of my NBCT portfolio in a way that didn’t make me puke, and that I think helped kids learn something.

That counts as success, right?

3 thoughts on “[NBCT] Self-Assessment

  1. I like the first question for self-assessment: How was your strategy similar to…different from? I think it is easier to reflect by comparing than just by staring at your own work. Your own work alone is too close, and a alalyzing it requires a level of metacognition and cotent knowledge that many student do not possess yet.

    I moved away from self-assessment rubrics and checklists some time ago. I shifted towards self-assessment as reflection and I find it more valuable. Just tell me about your successes and struggles, write questions if you have any you want to explore, tell me about your discoveries and conjectures. It is more informal and I get a lot of food for thought and my future lessons by reading those notes.

    I think, I would have rephrased and merged 3rd and 4th questions to open them more.
    3. What were some things that you noticed while working on the problem that informed your strategies?
    I think this would allow for more thinking space for the students who were not successful. And I wonder if Pythagoras would come up in some of the notices.

    Once students are used to self-reflection, they will sometimes do it without me asking any questions; I just find notes in their notebooks or post-its on the board. I suspect that if reflection on my work plays a crucial role in my own learning, it must be important for my students too.


    1. > Once students are used to self-reflection, they will sometimes do it without me asking any questions;

      That is awesome! First steps towards metacognition and self-analysis as you describe in the first paragraph.


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