I have been making plans for student reflection and group self-assessment in an end-of the year project.
For two years, I have ended 8th grade history with a project that brings together two things we have looked at through the year: individuals who make a difference and historical monuments. The students have finished their research and class presentations on the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. The pick one of the important women, or women’s issues, from their group research projects and design and build a model of a monument they would like to see to that person on the National Mall in Washington DC. And for the past two years I have only graded the presentation of that monument to the class. The students needed to be able to explain how the parts of the monument would make a visitor feel and learn, how the monument reflected the life and values of the person, and how their design and building process had worked.
These presentations, on the last day of school, are a fantastic way to hear from the students, and they enjoy the quick chance to show off their work. We don’t do a peer critique at that point, because the year is over, they couldn’t change anything.
This year I want to teach them how to be more self-reflective about their process and how the work unfolds during the two weeks of the project. I plan to set up an electronic project journal, probably on Padlet, since the school has an account and it works on both laptops and iPads. I am tinkering around with the model for these journals, but I am thinking that each project team should have one, and each student should post every day we meet in class. I am thinking of having a list of prompts, such as “Today I/we used _______ to make _________ (and then explain in a sentence or two how it worked). and have everyone include a sentence for “next steps” which should prompt them to know what to start on when they arrive in class the next period.
The idea is to create a space to 1) record their progress, and 2) allow me to comment and add suggestions as they go. I do this in class informally, but I have noticed that some groups are good at knowing what they need help with, and they call me over, while other groups, even when I stand and watch them work, still hide the struggles and questions they are having, and don’t bring me into those conversations.
I hope asking students to reflect with a series of prompts will allow me to help them more, and will challenge them to stretch their thinking and planning process a little bit.
And yes, I will have to give these things a grade, I teach at a school that gives grades. But in this case a low-point completion grade will probably work.
I will run this group self-reflection this year with a nightly check in, and some feedback from me, and then include a question about the value of this process in the things they need to report on at the end of the project. I won’t have any results until the end of May, but I continue to think about how to implement this system without making more crazy homework for them, and allowing each group to build a record of their work and their thinking as they go.