Friday, December 4, 2015

How, and Why, You Should Have Students Assess Themselves

As the end of another semester approaches, a teacher’s mind naturally turns to evaluations. This term, in addition to having students fill out the standard forms about your course, why not ask them to evaluate themselves as well? There are many reasons to have students complete self-evaluations at semester’s end, but perhaps the best is that the exercise encourages metacognition. I’ve written before about metacognition — essentially “thinking about one’s thinking” — particularly in the context of getting students to consider their approach to our courses as they progress. But metacognition is a significantly valuable tool at the end of a course, when there are so many opportunities for self-reflection. At that point, students have been working on the same subject for more than three months; before they move on to other courses, and other professors, give them time and space to reflect on what they’ve done, and how they’ve done it. A self-evaluation is a great way to get students to assess how they approached the course with an eye to improving their learning strategies in the future. It can also help cement the particular skills they learned in your course — in effect, they remind themselves of the skills they’ve acquired, and may be more likely to put them to use in the future. Additionally, asking students to reflect on their own practices during your course may make them better equipped to evaluate your teaching in a way that accurately reflects how much they’ve learned.
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