Making the grades [Dave Cormier version]

Here’s another practical approach to the dilemma of assessment, from Dave Cormier’s excellent blog:

I think I would say, rather, encourage the writing of self-assessment strategies by the students. I’m thinking that this should be included in the syllabus as a structuring piece around student reflection… both reflections in the blog and reflection in their own learning plan.

Teaching students how to make good questions for themselves, to ask them in ways that are going to lead to effective searching and learning, is something that should be overtly done. Taking time to specifically say that people are allowed to look at their own knowing, plan their own path to catch up, and that this will allow them to participate more fully in the community.

I love this. I’m not sure “teaching students how to make good questions” is how I would put it, but I like that this approach treats asking questions as a craft skill, like teaching people how to make good shelves.

So the question is: what is the craft of evaluation? If it can be learned, and I think it can, does that mean it has to be taught? Or is it like the skill of self-evaluation that all writers learn through writing?  I read a comment today from a student writer who was dismayed by pieces she’d written earlier in her blog, and I recognise this feeling. But it’s truly a sign that things are working as they should: the reason you can now see that it’s less than you want to achieve for yourself is that you’ve got better at judging writing since that time.

Judges at a cake show

“The Tyranny of the Judges”, Telegraph UK, 2009, photo credit ALAMY

The more I read, the more I think it’s possible to create a more open approach to grading with student writers, that doesn’t respond to the nuance, craft and trust that reflective writing represents by holding up a number, as though we’re judging a cake show.