ARCHIVED—Using Feedback to Motivate and Evaluate Student Performance
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Evaluating student performance is part of every teacher's job. Over the years, many teachers have sought to make evaluation into more than a mark. It's not that they think current evaluations systems don't work; rather, they want to make them work better.
There are three parts to the challenge. First is to replace conventional grading with a system that provides more and better information to students and their parents. Such an approach could single out particular skills for students to work on. "A mark like 67 percent doesn't tell you what you need to do better," explains Wayne Phillips.
Second is to motivate students to try harder. Most children understand that they could be better at some things, but wonder why they should bother, given all the choices they have, says Rob Dougherty. "They need a safe and supportive environment where they can encourage and support one another to do their best."
Third is to teach students how to evaluate themselves and others. Students who understand that their project needs more work will do it before the due date because they don't need the teacher to tell them what can be improved. The student who can evaluate what is good in their peers' work can learn from their peers, says Ron Blair. "I want to give them a skill of self-evaluation, which they can use after they leave my class and after they leave school."
A final challenge is for teachers to keep their eyes on the prize: the goal of evaluation is success not failure. "Evaluation is wasted if all it makes kids do is focus on the past," says Muriel Sawyer. "Some of my kids have tough lives; I want to give them feedback that teaches them that today is always a new day, and if you don't get it now, you can get it later."
Eileen Erasmus says that one of the worst things a school can do for students is to box them into a corner - for example, when students receive a "final" evaluation that tells them they have failed completely at school. Erasmus and Sawyer both work to counteract this by sending a message that students can always try again.