At the Happy Hive, I always felt it was important that because the kids were working on topics they chose, that they should be the ones to evaluate the quality of the learning that took place and decide if they were ready to move on. We used a simple process in which I was able to provide examples of student self-assessment in order to establish the standard of “BEST WORK”.
What is Student Self Assessment?
In our homeschool, self-assessment is just what it sounds like. My children were responsible for assessing (evaluating) themselves. They need to see the quality, quantity, and impact of their own work. My children are active participants in the complete learning process. It’s not about completing a list of tasks I as their teacher set out before them. It’s how we work together seamlessly to build knowledge, set goals, achieve goals, and become independent, self-sufficient, lifelong learners.
Define “BEST” work
My reasons for homeschooling were fear-based, plain, and simple. I didn’t want my children out of my sight and exposed to the whims of other adults. (Go ahead and judge me, I can take it!) As a classroom teacher myself, I knew how challenging it was to meet the needs of 43 students in one room. My rose-colored-glasses view believed every student needed an Individualized Education Plan – because everyone learned differently. Reality did not allow me to do that at school, but at home with only 3 – 5 kids at a time, I sure as shooting could!
BEST WORK simply put is allowing the child to work at their own pace, produce work at their own level, and self-identify the need for improvement (if such need existed). Self-identifying is KEY to producing quality work during the school years and adult years!
Home Educator vs Classroom Teacher
As parents, our role as “teachers” is somewhat different from what the worldview of the classroom teacher is. As “Mrs. Crabtree” I prefer to take on more of someone to inspire and empower my children than someone who was dictating to them a list of things (assignments) to complete. Within this role, I felt it was NOT my job to assign grades. Grades are used as a measure of performance subjectively – translated deeply into how a child is viewed: successful or not successful. Grades seem so judgemental.
This is why I implemented a system of student self-assessment in our homeschool from the beginning.
Each day I asked them simple things like: What was your favorite part of our learning activities today? Why? What would you do differently, Why? Sometimes they would tell me they wouldn’t do anything differently – that was important too! I would follow up with a question like: What made today’s activities work so well?
These conversations led to choosing their best piece of work for the week to display and why other work wouldn’t be on display. These items became our EXAMPLES OF STUDENT SELF ASSESSMENT. Often they put more effort into things they were passionate about but eventually learned to balance the less favorable assignments. I always kept the conversations focused on the child and what was important to them.
Every assignment doesn’t have to be done to the highest standard, at least not in our house. Balance was also important. Keep reading and I think you will understand how this works and how individuals made decisions.
Why use self-assessment in your homeschool
- Builds integrity
- Develops self-directed learning
- Increases motivation and engagement
- Develops critical thinking skills
Self-assessment requires your child to take a critical look at their own work and the process in which they used to complete it. When they turn their work in and declare – This is my best work, they are giving their word. It’s like the old-fashioned handshake. Integrity is built by providing children the opportunity to be honest. They should be familiar with your family values, what fair vs equal truly means, and act responsibly. Best work for one child is not best work for another. Comparison to others should not be factored into self-assessment.
Self Directed Learning
Because they will be self-assessing, your children will naturally self-direct. To be a self-directed learner means they will figure out what needs to be done to accomplish the task at hand. They develop their own learning goals. Your child will ask if they can learn about what THEY are interested in. You will find them quietly researching the history of baseball, or how to make pancakes fluffier. Life experiences have a HUGE impact on learning choices.
Increased motivation and engagement
Motivation and engagement are increased when self-assessment strategies are used in a homeschool setting. The best explanation I can give of this is a real-world example.
My son was born with vision issues. His penmanship never conformed to “traditional” standards. We never made it an issue. He wrote answers to the questions asked in the simplest manner possible. There were never extra words, and often it was correct but messy. What would be the point of having him re-do work that wasn’t neat? Even when I KNEW he could do better? He really didn’t care how his writing looked, his goal had always been to just get the letters onto the paper because of those first visual challenges. Douglas decided, getting the letters onto paper WAS his best work. Function over Form.
He eventually learned how to control his writing and bring it into somewhat of a legible print. Cursive was learned, and he can do it, but he chooses print. He never liked how his writing looked, but also never chose to make it look better. It just wasn’t important to him, and that was ok with us! He completed the tasks given.
He preferred to spend hours building book report scenes out of Legos. We’d get a scene from History, Literature, etc. We knew if he wanted to set his mind to a task, he could – and that was what was important.
As a High School Junior, his Language Arts program of choice is writing a book. He’s using a computer thankfully! Simply allowing him to progress and choose his course and not make writing an issue has paid off. He is both motivated AND engaged in the task. His writing is descriptive, his characters developed and he is writing so much more than the days of simply the basic answer!
Another strong reason using self-assessment in the homeschool setting is valuable is how it helps develop thinkers. Your children can’t just say yes, this is my best work without providing SUPPORT for why it ACTUALLY is their best work. Supporting their answer requires critical thinking. The same is true for evaluating things they can do differently to improve the work if choosing to re-do it. Over the years I found my children were much harder on themselves than I ever would have been, teaching credentials and all!
Self Evaluation requires 3 important things to be successful
- Examples of student self assessment – or what we called BEST WORK
- Mentoring, modeling self-assessment in your own work
- A safe environment in which children can be honest
Gathering examples of student self assessment
You might think that when asking a child each time they finish an assignment: Is this your best work? You’ll always be met with a YES, and the backside of their head as they run out to play. Initially, that may be true, which is why it is critical to have samples of what “best work” looks like. Adding a few “extra” clarifying questions helps make the truth come to light. Ask, what makes it your best work? Work together to find a specific example of what EXACTLY is the qualifier. Each time, these examples work together to become the standard or the best work sample. You can even work together to establish a checklist. In our home one item a week went on the Brag Board.
Mentoring the process
Mentoring is crucial to self-assessment. In the above example regarding my son’s writing, we decided together, and early that his writing was a non-issue. Douglas knew his name went across two lines, but his sister’s name was “neatly written” in the right-hand corner. Because our mantra was everyone learns differently, we were able to highlight Douglas’ strengths. As a parenting team, we also made it a point to self-assess our own work. At dinner for example. I was able to remark about trying a new recipe and what went well, and what I would do differently. My husband made a point to talk about the research he did about how to fix the washing machine. These examples set the tone of always learning, and each of us having different talents and abilities.
Providing a Safe Environment
The home is perfect for self-evaluation because it requires an environment in which a child feels safe, and that they can be honest. Who better to do that with than their parents. A classroom community CAN achieve this (I did my very best for 15 years), but after 180 days, they move on. Homeschooling builds upon the foundation built year after year and the definition of best work grows and grows.
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