As we worked on our assessment units in class, I began to think about how assessment follows us from birth to death. For many of us, the first words we’ll hear are “It’s a (insert gender pronoun here)!” And as I recently sat in the funeral of a relative, I listened to other family member’s assessments of her life: “She was kind. She glowed from within. She taught us how to die and how to live.” Though birth and death allow us to perform ritualized behaviors, we don’t always realize that assessment is part of what we do in these situations.
Too often assessment comes too late, both inside and outside of our time in the classroom.
Doing the early course survey with my students was an opportunity for each of us to assess the other. They had the chance to request more or less of something in our time together. I had the chance to figure out where they needed clarification and support. This experience made me think about the ways that assessment can be more powerful when it’s a two-way street. And it will help me prepare the rest of the course to respond to the information they shared with me. Merely asking students for their feedback about what they need can be profound. It can change the relationship from vertical to horizontal as Irene pointed out in her wonderful post.
Today, my students heard a lecture from guest artist Jack O’Brien, a three time Tony Award winner for Best Director. It was fabulous and inspiring. One of the aspiring actors in the room asked Mr. O’Brien about what he looks for in an audition. His response was specific to the audition room, yet universal to any one who has ever had to prepare for something, i.e. all of us. He talked about the importance of being so prepared that you are able to be confident, spontaneous, and ready to show off how hard you have worked. To reach this point requires that one takes self-assessment seriously and practices it often. This means showing up for yourself and holding yourself responsible for you. Self-assessment can mean periodically checking in with yourself to note your feelings about a given thing or it can be as involved as writing down your goals and steps you are taking/will take to achieve them.
Preparation is a wonderful tool for self-assessment, one that I think is too often overlooked. How can we stress to our students the importance of preparation? for the course? for their lives? How can we teach our students the work of preparation?
Giving yourself the proper preparation necessarily involves a self assessment. Where am I at? What do I need to do to get to where I want to be? How can I take steps to bridge that gap?
As I go through the rest of the semester I plan to make space for my own self-assessment. How am I doing? What tools can I use to ensure that my students succeed? How can I facilitate their own skills of preparation and self-assessment?