Teaching Methods

Student Self-Evaluations for Growth

Grading. Feedback. Oh how we want it to be effective, but too often our time is not exchanged for valuable student learning. When the focus is the grade, rather than the learning, and the grade is “final” with no opportunities to grow, why would students care about the feedback? They look at the grade, make a judgment of themselves as learners of physics, and toss it. Not only do they miss out on the growth opportunity, they miss out on all of the things they did correctly. 

I always love when students come to me and we have one on one conversations because these are really fruitful, but there’s literally not enough time in the day to do this for 100-200 students. 

Besides, as a high school teacher my lasting lessons need to be the ones that will carry them through college and beyond. None of those have to do with properly using F=ma. 

Recently in my regular physics classes I’ve worked to make the process more transparent. We do regular “check-in’s” (yes, they are quizzes) that are focused on 1-2 objectives, but the other piece I’ve added is having students self-evaluate their work in the same way I evaluate their work. 

This is not about providing solutions (yes, it’s part of it). It’s about making the students go through the process in a non-threatening way so they can look for trends and patterns in their work. 

Here’s what it looks like

Currently we are wrapping up reflection. I want students to be able to do ray tracing and mathematical calculations. 

One of the changes I made years ago was to ask students to do the ray diagram first, making it roughly proportional, and then work the math and verify the two answers check out with one another. I proclaim to students they won’t need me to ask if they did it right, they should know

Historically I’ve had the solutions available at my desk for students to check the work. But you know what they do? They look at the final answer and move on. 

My biggest problem? Students just will not draw that image in on their ray diagram! I also have a problem with students not putting arrowheads on their light rays. Now, from a student learning objective process, both of these omissions are not problematic if the goal is to locate and describe the image. However, for a student who is struggling, these omissions can make it really difficult. I don’t want to punish students who clearly know what’s going on, but I don’t want to settle for incomplete work, either. 

Enter the self-evaluation. 

I create a checklist for students to go through, and I have them go through this checklist for each question. I reproduce the checklist for each question so students are required to look at each piece of their work rather than trying to summarize everything from the start. Why do I do this? I want them to see patterns in their work.

Here’s what it looks like for ray diagrams

Here’s what the math check list looks like. 

I ask students to evaluate their answers with my solution guide. I also ask them to give themselves a score. 2 points if everything is right. 1 point if something is right but there are things missing or incorrect. 0 points if nothing is correct. Their score out of 4 gives them an idea of the letter grade they would earn from the work. 

So the whole document looks like this:

I explain they might notice they are marking “no” over and over again. When they notice this, that piece is the piece they now know they need to work on. 

To make sure students are self-aware, I asked them to summarize what they did correctly, and what they did incorrectly or omitted. 

I will be honest, part of me expected students to kind of half-ass the assignment. But something magical happened: students who hadn’t finished the assignment evaluated the ones they did… and then they worked the rest of the problems and corrected themselves!!!

We will see how the test goes next week, but I’m really hopeful! 


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