Saturday, April 13, 2013

Self assessments as a reflective tool

Before teaching in mainstream I taught in a fish bowl. It was a new school for children with autistic spectrum disorders and therefore constantly visited by HMI, psychologists and other professionals. I was very self critical, partly because at that time I was unqualified and felt I had much to prove. I always wanted to do better. The school principle said once that it was my best and worst quality. I didn't need anyone else analysing my practice, I could do it well enough on my own.
I strongly believe that this underpins good teaching. Self assessing is a regular part of my practice, because it has a dual purpose - it helps the children focus on their strengths and areas to develop and it also helps me understand mine. At the end of each half term I want the children to spend a bit of time reflecting on their learning and also their proudest moments.We start by thinking and talking about all the things we have learned in class, what we have achieved and our thoughts in general. They then talk to their partners about what they have got better at and things they are proud of.

 I ask them to be frank and to tell me what would have made it even better for them in class as this helps me become a better teacher. It is their chance to be frank with me. Whilst I understand that the fact that these are not anonymous could influence what the children feel comfortable saying, I do also believe that our youngest children have the power to be frank when asked.

So here is what I learned from this set of self assessments:

  • Older children often focus on their improvements in writing (especially handwriting) and maths. Although this is not that dissimilar for my year 2/1s, my children also identified improvements in singing, sewing and behaviour such as sitting/listening on the carpet.
  • My children are very proud of a range of things: the puppets that they made, their stories that scared Mr BB, a range of maths subjects, their clay work, singing and a range of writing. This is good because I feel it shows how all learning is valued.
  • A lot of children identified that the noise levels in class sometimes prevented them from concentrating. This became a great discussion point and has provided a reference point for when I ask them to use indoor voices/turn their volume down in the future. 
  • Some children wrote that they have had a lot of help in class, from adults and from their friends. They seemed very able to identify that they are well supported. 
  • There were still too many blank spaces for the 'This would have helped with my learning...' section. When I asked children they told me that they were happy, that they had enough help and that they didn't know what to put in there or how it could be better. Some children went away and added 'I have enjoyed everything'. It is difficult to get them to add anything more constructive without putting words into their mouths.
  • One child had written that it would help if there were 10 Miss BBs ;-)
  • A G&T child wrote: 'I have enjoyed having lots more hard work, because the other maths is too easy.' Although I thought I had been stretching her, her 100% accuracy was not making her feel challenged. She prefers it when she struggles slightly as she knows that she is learning (I can relate to this). This is a fine balance though, but at the moment it seems to be the right balance.
  • They have enjoyed a range of subjects that we have covered. 
  • Identifying specifics is difficult for this age group. They might know that they want to improve their maths, but may not be clear exactly which part.
  • If my children had their choice next half term they would like to learn about: airplanes, the world, cats, tsunamis, dinosaurs, body and bones, Norwich, transport, squirrels, experiments I can do at home, polar bears, fish, how to bake cakes, the Hulk, horses, all about artists, Spanish, more numbers, poisons, another language, bears, Swedish, Spanish and French. A third of children gave reasons for their choices.

Now I can definitely cover some of these, but not all. This is why my team teacher and I made the decision to let our children make their own choices about their learning in the form of self study projects, at least twice a year. It is something that I have always done with older children, but it has proved very successful and enjoyable with my year 2/1s too. They enjoy the process and all children produce work of a standard that is high for them. They put a lot of effort in.

I have made brief notes from these self evaluations to inform my planning for next term, but more than that I enjoyed reading them. They were a pleasure to read and follow up on.

Example of PE self assessments

A little further (more academic) reading: 

The reflective teacher-McGraw Hill
Towards reflective teaching
The reflective teacher - Geoff Petty
Becoming a reflective teacher - Sage Publishing


  1. I did enjoy reading this posting - how interesting that the children found it more challenging to think of other things that could have helped them with their learning. Is it that they have lots of resources / strategies at their disposal perhaps? I remember doing lots of work with a Y2 class about how to choose appropriate resources to support themselves in maths - and how that might lead individuals to make different choices but all could be right for them.
    I liked all the different things they wanted to learn about - I sometimes say to my students that maybe if they are teaching pupils how to use features of a text type the children don't need to research and write about the same subject - they could follow a personal interest.

    I had a written a comment and thought I posted it but it disappeared - so if you now have two, please do delete one! I have copied this one just on case...

  2. Thank you for your comments Jean. I think that some of the strategies I use may help them. For example, we have a help desk, collaboration station, investigation station and reflection section (see slide 11 here which helps personalise learning. I'm always on the look out for effective ways to scaffold learning!


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