As a final wrapping up activity for the year in the Science class in one of the 7th grades, students were encouraged to look back at the work done during the whole year, using as the main source their folders/scientific journals, were they had kept and recorded the evidence of their achievements, hard work and commitment throughout their science classes. (some other evidence was kept in their Google classroom as digital work).
We now know that knowledge is accomplished not just by receiving information, but also by interpreting the information and relating it to the student’s previous knowledge. Learning requires that the students engage in problem-solving to actively build mental models. What is important, and therefore should be assessed, is the student’s ability to organize, structure, and use information in context to solve problems. What would be more at hand than their own folders, where all the year-long learning process has been recorded?
Self-assessment is a powerful tool that triggers some deep thinking. Evaluation that rests at the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy, is the ability to critically think about your own work. Self- assessment gives students feedback on how well they understand the information and on what they need to improve, while helping us teachers to better design instructions. It becomes even more relevant when students get involved in their own self-evaluation. Students taking an active role in developing the scoring criteria, and goal setting, more readily accept that the assessment is adequately measuring their learning. By reflecting on their own learning process, they become more aware of their achievements and these results in a deeper, more powerful and long-lasting learning.
There are several techniques that a teacher may use in class to integrate reflection into everyday activities: exhibitions and demonstrations, portfolios, journals, rubrics, self and peer evaluation, post-it note critiques, among others. The most common form of reflection is a simple written response.
In the activity I planned for the closure of the year I asked students to gather and scan into their stored learned material and to search through it in order to find:
- New things they´ve learned during this year, and explain what was the most important/relevant topic about that new information (x2 -Purple/Peach)
- Topics they found difficult or challenging, and explain what was the difficulty (x2 – Red)
- Topics they found useless or did not enjoy, and provide a reason for that (x1 – Blue)
- Topics they will never forget (x3 – Yellow)
- Identify processes in the content studied (x3 – Green)
- Summarize a topic of interest
Using papers of different colours, as “post-it notes”, students were asked to search through their Journals/ Folders, and identify all of the above list. They had to stick the paper in that section /page of their folders, and write the reasons for their choice on the post-it.
Later, they were asked to summarize a topic of interests to be able to explain that topic to a friend.
Finally, students were requested to write a self-evaluation of their academic performance and student profile throughout the year, and to write down what they would change about them in their journals.
Some of the student’s reflections can be seen below:
These student´s comments are clear evidence of my point. Students learn better and faster by doing experiments, by singing a rap song about the cells, and by relating what they learn to their everyday life. When doing so, the topic becomes relevant, adding meaning and reason for learning those contents. For example: “acids and alkalis are found in our cleaning products at home and we must be careful because they are corrosive”. Other relevant information worth mentioning include “Experiments that can be done at home” giving the students the possibility of sharing their knowledge with family members and explore even more, or knowing that “the colour of some flowers depends on the acidity of the soil”, opening a world of questioning and exploration, that will enhance their scientific enquiry. Sometimes moving from the comfort zone can make them feel challenged, like in a “field trip”. Moreover, learning “how to plot a graph”, might be difficult at first but seems easier after some practice.
The information provided by this self-assessment activity can be used later by the teacher to understand what kind of students he/she has, what they like and dislike, what is it that they find thought provoking, what helps them learn. It can also be used as a complement of a traditional written test. Self-assessment provides the teacher with a framework for metacognition while it allows the students to develop a sense of autonomy throughout their learning process.
Bibliography and References
- Self assessment inspires learning. Edutopia. Lori Desautels. 13 Aug 2014. Web. 7 Dec 2017
- Cambridge Secondary 1, Science Teacher Guide, Cambridge International Examinations, 2016.