I love using self-evaluations with my students to encourage them to think reflectively on how they can improve. I find that it is a great way to encourage student responsibility, and self-evaluation activities are great tools to come back to if you need to have a conference with a parent, a quick chat with an under-performing student, or a meeting with an administrator to discuss student progress.
I’ve taught 6th-12th grade, so I don’t always use the same type of self-evaluations, but I still want to help foster this important skill with middle schoolers. An 11-year-old is not going to think the same way as a 17-year-old, but that doesn’t mean that a sixth grader can’t think reflectively about his/her progress.
Why should you use self-evaluations with your students?
1. You’re encouraging autonomy.
Ever have those students who won’t do anything unless you are right there to make sure they do? With a self-reflection piece, the students will see that staying on task is their responsibility. Will they always work without a teacher nearby? Not always, but often they will recognize that they need to change their behavior, and that takes away a little of the classroom battle.
2. You’ll motivate students to do better.
By asking students to think about what they like and don’t like about your class, or what they can do well and not so well, you are giving them the first steps to build on their strengths. Because they have thought about what they struggle with, they will then need to think about how to get help when needed. By also focusing on what they do well, students might identify a particular study aid that helps them.
3. You’re asking them to take ownership of their learning.
Have you ever had a student get mad at you for “giving” them a bad grade? Me neither!
No, seriously, how many times have you explained that you don’t give grades, but the students earn them? No matter how you explain it, there will always be a student who refuses to acknowledge his/her part in the whole thing. So, when that student checks on his/her self-evaluation that he/she never does homework, it is really easy to pull that sheet out and talk about how the grade came to be. Now, if that student never does homework but reports that he/she does everything? Well, now you can have a talk about what is really going on.
4. Your students will understand their level of success.
When your students reflect upon their grades, the effort put forth, and the areas of improvement, it helps them see the big picture. Students are able to see where they are and that enables them to see where they want to go. While it may seem obvious that a student should do his/her work in order to get a grade, that is often lost on students, which is why so many students make a last ditch effort to get extra credit when they have not done the regular work. Sometimes, seeing their efforts on paper helps them understand why they have the grade or the level of understanding that they do.
5. You’ve got documentation for conferences with parents or administration.
If you’ve got a tough cookie in your class (and who doesn’t?), then you for sure want to make sure that you’ve got yourself covered. These forms are so handy to pull out when an angry parent is claiming that the bad grade is all your fault. They are great to show an administrator who comes in your room when that same student just will not work. It shows you are trying. It shows you care. It shows that the child’s education is your responsibility and the child’s.
To start students thinking reflectively, I have always used this form with my 6th graders. It is simple and to the point.
After a few years in middle school, most students take more ownership of their learning and are ready to think about how they can improve. I used this form when I taught 8th grade.
With high schoolers, it is really important that they look at their strengths and weaknesses so that they can address concerns while also using their strengths to help them to their best. I used this form when I taught high school.
Do you want to know how you’re doing? Have students fill out a teacher report card and use their comments to guide your self-reflection. You’ll find out some interesting things about yourself, and because it’s anonymous, you’ll get honest answers.