It’s a universal truth, every student that I’ve ever met wants to do better. Unfortunately we don’t teach them how to do better. Improvement in anything requires feedback, reflection on that feedback and then action.
Assessment is the main form of feedback that students get. In primary school this consists of tests that focus in recalling facts; think spelling words and knowing historical dates. Wrong was wrong and right was right. The term for this is summative assessment, it evaluates learning at the end. End, over and done with. Students know the way to improve is to try harder, so that they remember more. No feedback was necessary. Just look at the grade and put it away.
As assessment tasks move to focusing on understanding, applying and analysing with knowledge responding to feedback is crucial to getting better. These assessments are known as formative. They demonstrate the progress of learning providing insight as to how far you have come and where you need to go.
Unfortunately students have only learned to just look at it, put it away and employ the previously successful “try harder” method for improvement.
In reality, all assessment is formative, there is always something to learn by evaluating our successes and mistakes through self reflection. Teaching your student to do this with summative assessments is important so that they can learn to be reflective:
- Look at the assessment with the student and ask them how it makes them feel. Acknowledge their feelings and if necessary, give them some time and space to process. They take a bad result personally.
- When they are ready, sit with them and work through the right and wrong answers. Have them categorise incorrect answers as either a silly mistake, didn’t know or bad question (yes there are bad questions out there and there is nothing we can do about it).
- Tally it up and see where improvements can be made. Silly mistakes usually occur because they were rushed or haven’t shown their full workings. Lack of knowledge is usually either they didn’t study the right material or never properly understood the material. Ask them about this to get to the bottom of the problem.
- Work with them to develop a plan to fix the problem. This might be extra help after school from the teacher, tutor, or mentor. If you think the problem is serious, contact the school and they should be able to get a learning specialist involved.