The Role & Rigor of Self-Assessment in MakerEd (Part 3) Examples


by Christa Flores -

The Role and Rigor of Self-Assessment in MakerEd: Examples

by Christa Flores and Carolina Rodriguez

In part 2 of this blog we discussed the accuracy and payoff of using alternative assessments in a MakerEd context. In this blog we will get down to business looking at how to use self-assessment in real world project context. Nina Rodriguez, the coordinator of the Innovation and Design Lab at Downtown College Prep (San Jose), will be joining this conversation to talk about examples of self-assessment used in her classrooms.


Example Self-Assessment Tool #1:  Student Surveys

6th Grade Project 2014: “School of the Future”

School: Downtown College Prep

Curriculum Designer: Nina Rodriguez


Eight sixth graders at Downtown College Prep met in the Innovation and Design Lab two days out of the week for one hour after school. The 6th graders met a total of 8 sessions to work on the “School of the Future” project, which consisted of students being grouped into teams responsible for designing a specific type of building (e.g. the library, the multi-purpose room, the front office) for a brand new campus. The goal for each team was to create a design that demonstrated empathy towards the needs of the staff and students who would use the facility, as well as to make a unique structure that reflected their own idea of what a school of the future would look like. Prior to starting the program, students filled out a questionnaire with the following questions:

When reading the completed surveys I noticed that they had a strong interest in making, as well as a familiarity with the very basics of the design process.  As their guide for the project, my goal was to take this knowledge that they already had going into the after-school program and help them determine what aspect of the project they wanted to learn more about.  These questions served as an introductory self-assessment for my students, in the sense that they were describing their own motivations for taking the time to work on this project outside of school as well as their expectations for their own learning.

Pre-Project Responses:

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During the final session of the “School of the Future” project the students completed a survey that complemented the initial questionnaire:


My students’ responses demonstrated that self assessment makes it easier for them to determine specific interests as compared to when they first started the project. Having a prompt with parameters definitely focuses their attention to certain skills, but when the magnifying glass that is placed over their work is through a student’s eyes, they become active rather than passive learners.  

Reflection Responses:

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In the first survey, students described what they wanted to do (“make stuff”, “drawing, inventing”). In the last survey above, they start to focus on achievements and challenges throughout their design process for their project, such as presenting their work at the school assembly or learning how to determine what materials worked best for their models. In addition, the students also made direct connections to the design process when reflecting on their learning experience, which was the primary focus for the the project.


Design Process by IDEAco, City X Project

My students have shown that they can express their expectations for their learning experience as well as recognize the primary concept(s) of a project. Surveys can be used as a starting point for in-depth self assessment, and can also be incorporated to help students when they are struggling to discern the successful aspects of their work as well as the components of their project they need to improve or address.




Example Self-Assessment Tool #2:  Claim for a Grade (Pass or Fail)

5th Grade Project 2013: “RubeGoldBridge Problem”

School: The Hillbrook School

Curriculum Designer: Christa Flores 

At Hillbrook we give students grades, even for electives. I teach 5th grade problem based science and electives in entrepreneurialism to 7th and 8th graders. In an effort to protect a growth mindset around process and creativity, I base grades not on working prototypes or tests or rubrics, but on a pass/fail point system. I feel comfortable giving points for the written or visual submission of an argument because the only way to lose points is to turn in work late. Self-assessments such as these can be used effectively when the criteria for quality is co-created with the students. Students also feel more comfortable grading themselves when the defense of pass or fail is concrete.  Students are asked to show evidence of their own learning, either soft skills or measurable skills.

When I ask my students to list reasons why they earned their grade, I encourage them to list all the things that represented new learning or growth in an area they had been working in. Using this system you can support the wide range of learning that is happening in a self-directed learning space. Students will self-report using above grade level math skills to solve problems, specialized tools for measurement, practicing new leadership skills, learning a new technology like programming or CAD, and the list goes on. The claim/evidence/reasoning or persuasive essay  format (sometimes this is a movie made in Explain Everything for students that struggle with writing) is only one form of assessment that encourages a student to defend and reflect on their learning. Public showcase of work also allows students to communicate their understanding of their problem to an audience.

An example of how I do this with my 5th graders can be seen at the end of the four month long “spring hard problem.” The project is based on a prompt of 3-5 rules, such as: 1) Do work on a 75 gram steel ball  (move the ball from position A to B) 2) with an input and output that connects to two other teams’ machines 3) and bridges two or more forms of energy.  After months of trial and error, design and redesign and team building, I knew that my students were having a very rich experience, but accessing it and getting out in the open or even on paper was a huge challenge.  Thats when I decided to start looking at self-assessments. Below is the first one I presented to my 5th grade.  

My 5th graders had no problem telling me what they had done to support their team, or the way they took risks or problems they had solved. Their ability to make a valid argument was so impressive, I continue to use this form of assessment at the end of all of my projects, including my electives.  Below is an example of one student’s self-assessment for the RubeGoldBridge problem.  This style of assessment allows students to use argument and communication skills that are appropriate for that student. It also shifts the role of assessing progress from the adult to the learner, a goal we are striving for in the Middle School at Hillbrook.