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NYC Helpline: How To: Develop as a Professional

How Can Teachers Help Students Monitor and Assess Their Learning?
Theresa London Cooper

“Let your students grade themselves occasionally. Have them fill out a report card on themselves and review it with you. Discuss areas where you disagree.”

“Give students more practice in planning, thinking, and deciding and less practice in memorizing, copying, and repeating.”
Robert D. Ramsey, Ed.D

I will never forget what I witnessed on a Tuesday morning when I entered Ms. M’s classroom. A group of kindergarten students were busily drawing and writing. When I engaged a few of the students in conversation, they explained to me that they were drawing pictures of their favorite characters, after which they would include some writing explaining why these characters were their favorite. I thought to myself how fabulous it was that they understood the assignment so well, were actively engaged, and could clearly articulate their purpose for writing. The conversation that ensued among and between the students and teacher was a testimony to how important it is to involve students in the assessment of their work even as early as kindergarten.

Apparently, Ms. M spent a significant amount of time with her students developing a rubric, which students used in conversation to evaluate their work. She also created a safe classroom environment that encouraged her students to listen and accept constructive feedback from their peers. When they all gathered on the carpeted area, Ms. M called for volunteers to share their work. Based on the conversation I heard, I inferred that they used the rubric detailed below.

An illustration
An illustration of my favorite character with a sentence ( however, not related to the picture)
An illustration of my favorite character with a sentence that tells about my character
An illustration of my favorite character with more than a sentence which tells something about my character

Each student presented his or her work, indicated the number of happy faces he or she should receive along with an explanation why. The other students were then permitted to share their comments and agree or disagree with their fellow student’s self-assessment. After each presentation, the student received a special cheer from the group to acknowledge the effort.

There are many ways we can teach our students to monitor their own learning and work. My experience with Ms. M’s students reaffirms my belief in student-designed rubrics. It is important to underscore the teacher’s role in helping students design and implement a student-friendly rubric which supports their ability to effectively assess their work. In addition, students of any age will require practice using the rubric before they use it correctly.

Conferencing is another valuable tool. In my own practice, I have found conferencing to be a prime opportunity to ask students questions and get them thinking about what they know and with what they need to do to extend their learning. It is an opportunity to have students compare their work to an exemplar, and through observation and conversation decide whether or not their work meets, exceeds, or falls short of the standard. It is an opportunity for students to collaborate with peers and teachers to develop a plan that will move them further along. Teachers may also take this time to model self-questioning.

Task cards are another way to help students monitor and take responsibility for their learning. Several years ago, as a classroom teacher working with small groups of students while the remaining students worked independently, I was always concerned with what my students were doing when they were not with me. I developed task cards for my students to use during their independent work time that required them to monitor their progress. The cards were submitted to me at the end of the period and students earned stars based on a pre-determined number of completed steps.

The cards listed several directions or a checklist, written in language they understood, to guide their work. To avoid interruption later I went over the directions with the entire class before the scheduled independent work time.

Below is a sample task card, which went into their folders. The task cards served as documentation reflecting the students’ ability to work independently, which was valuable information that could be shared with parents and administration.


Name:____________________________________ Date:________________________

Please read the directions carefully before you begin working. Place a check mark in the appropriate box.

1. Take a picture walk and look at each page.
[ ]
[ ]
2. Read each page of the book.
[ ]
[ ]
3. Draw you favorite part of the story using details.
[ ]
[ ]
4. Write at least three sentences explaining why you chose that part of the story.
[ ]
[ ]

Having them check off what they completed gave them a sense of accomplishment. Knowing that I would collect and review the cards encouraged them to complete as many steps as possible. I used this task card with my second-grade students but with the proper practice and review they can be beneficial across grades levels and curriculum areas.

Rubrics, checklists, conferencing, self-questioning, and task cards are just a few ways to facilitate student self-assessment throughout the grades. Additionally, keep Robert D. Ramsey’s quote in mind. It is what we do as professionals in our endeavor to move students towards independence and accountability for their learning. In fact, it is a life skill that will prove to be useful as they grow as learners.

Feel free to e-mail me and share some other ways that have been successful for you.


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