Self-Evaluation By Young Learners: This Is Possible and Real
By: Alecsandra Maciel, Escola Americana do Recife
This article aims on showing my own experience as a teacher who uses self-evaluation by young learners on a daily basis in the lessons, the challenges I had to face, and the benefits I truly believe it has for the students and teachers.
I have been teaching for more than fifteen years and throughout all of this time I have been always trying out some strategies to make my students play a significant role in the learning process. I believe that students must feel part of this mechanism once it grows their sense of responsibility. Also, when we make students think over their own works, we are building their critical thinking skills. Responsibility and critical thinking are two very important skills that should be taught at school once they help people “read” the world.
But how could I apply that to young learners? Was it possible? Those were the questions which came to my mind when I started to teach children at the age of 4-5 years old. Then I figured out I had to adapt my self-evaluation forms and techniques to reach that new audience. Once I could do that it was time to put my thoughts in practice and check if they were able to do it. At the beginning, it was hard because I was used to working with students who were able to read and write and think by themselves. Then, I realized I had to start from the very beginning. In my country, it is not very common to make children think about the activities and exercises they do at school, so I had to build that tradition in my classes.
The great tip begins from the very first week of school and is incorporated into your daily routine. Students may think it is different and strange. In the beginning some used to make fun of that and were not very honest when answering the forms… However, to my surprise, as time went by they got used to it. I realized I underestimated my pupils because once children begin to understand it is a natural part of the learning process they are able to do it as their sense of responsibility grows.
There are many different ways of having students evaluate themselves. However, as the young learners’ implementation was a new experience for me, I decided to begin by making use of these two strategies:
First, I found out that it was nice to do at the end of the school day by having the whole group orally answer some questions on my chart (on the board): What was the thing they liked learning that day? What was hard for them? What was fun? What was not good? etc. As time went by and students got used to it we could add more questions to this group-evaluation such as: what was difficult? What was easy? What would you like to share with your family at home? etc.
Secondly, I developed a form for them to check for self-evaluation after some activities done in class such as show & tell sessions, individual project presentations, family projects, science experiments, etc. For that we can make use of smiley/average/sad faces to circle while you read some criteria for the students. In both cases, we should be clear in advance what the teacher’s expectations are about the students’ work: This is known as rubrics. The term may be not part of the children`s vocabulary, but I am sure they can understand you saying what you want from them. Besides, as my students are very young I always send parents a message explaining my assignments. It avoids misunderstandings.
We can also make use of a self-evaluation for behavior. I myself have found bunches of that on the internet. All the students may answer that every day or we can use it with the troublemakers only. It will help the child see how he/she acts throughout the day and understand the good or bad consequences of his/her actions.
Another very positive aspect about having self-evaluations is that it also has benefits for us as teachers. We can analyze the collected data to consider improvement to our daily teaching practice. It involves students and teachers in the consideration of the effectiveness of their learning/teaching process.
As you can see, there are several possible ways to use self-evaluation with students even when they are little 4 or 5 year-old pupils. The first challenge we should face is to exterminate our own prejudice of thinking they are not capable of thinking about their learning experiences. Never underestimate your students no matter how old they are! Then, open your mind for adaptations and suggestions. Most of times your own students are the ones who give you the most important input. And remember; use this precious collected data to enhance your teaching practice.