We’re finishing 5 Days of Exemplars, our deep dive into using math performance tasks to build students’ problem-solving skills. We’ve already taken a look at how to help students unpack a problem, choose strategies to solve it, and put those strategies to work. And we’ve discussed ways to support them as they solve problems independently. Now we’ll look at helping them practice reflection and self-assessment—because it’s one of the most valuable interventions you can make.
A 21st century problem solver has the ability to reason and think critically. That’s one of the defining characteristics of people equipped to succeed: the ability to observe, reflect, reason, and integrate new skills and information. These skills begin with self- and peer-assessment.
That’s one of the foundational principles of Exemplars, and it’s grounded in research: Student achievement is strongly related to effective assessment practices in the classroom, including student self- and peer-assessment. This is underscored by John Hattie in his book, Visible Learning for Mathematics, Grades K–12. In it, Hattie states that the“effect size for self-reported grades/student expectations = 1.44.”
On page 57, Hattie states,
Self-reported grades reflect the extent to which students have accurate understandings of the abilities to predict their achievement. It matters that students can describe their current performance accurately, whether that performance is high or low… it’s hard for learners to know whether they are learning something without having some criteria against which they can measure themselves. Teachers should have success criteria in mind for the lesson… success criteria describe what success tools look like when the learning goal is reached. It is specific, concrete and measurable.
To help students develop these essential self-assessment skills, Exemplars provides a set of formidable tools: anchor papers, the Standards-Based Math Rubric, the Problem Solving Process, and the student rubric.
Benefits of Self- and Peer-Assessment
Before we talk about how to support students in acquiring strong assessment skills, let’s consider the why: Why should we encourage and support our students in learning these practices? There are countless benefits.
1) Students internalize the criteria for high-quality work.
Students who see clear models of work that meet the standards (such as Exemplars anchor papers) and understand why the work meets the standards will begin to make comparisons between their performance and the examples of student work presented.
2) Students understand the process of getting to the standard.
Exemplars rubrics demonstrate for students where they have been, where they are now, and where they will be. Describing progressive levels of performance becomes a guide for the journey, rather than a blind walk through an assessment maze.
3) Teachers involve students in the monitoring process and shift some of the responsibility for documenting and justifying learning to the students. Research has demonstrated that high-performing learners do the following:
- Use feedback from peers to guide their learning process
4) Students understand that standards are "real" and achievable.
Exemplars rubrics and anchor papers demonstrate for students what it means to meet the standard and how they might go beyond what is expected to exceed the standard.
5) Parents understand expectations and assessment criteria.
When students can articulate to their parents (before, during, and at the end of the task) what the standards of performance are, parents receive a clear and positive message about their child’s endeavors. Parents generally want to support their child's learning but feel helpless sometimes because they are unsure of what open-ended tasks are intended to teach. Student rubrics remove the educational jargon yet still describe meaningful learning.
Using Anchor Papers to Develop Self- and Peer-Assessment Practices
So how do we bring it all together for them? The tools are right there. Exemplars provides student work samples, also referred to as anchor papers, along with scoring rationales at the four performance levels of its Standards-Based Assessment Rubric.
When you present students with a specific anchor paper from an Exemplars task, and discuss it with them in conjunction with the rubric criteria, you help students internalize what success does — and doesn’t! — look like. Through these supports, students build a practice of critical thinking they can use to solve new problems. Try making anchor papers part of your instructional plan for remote and/or in-classroom learning. You can use these tools as:
- A vehicle for understanding the Exemplars math rubric. Give students a task to try and then share the corresponding anchor papers with Google slides. Discuss and critique the anchor papers and score them as a class using the Exemplars rubric.
- A tool to facilitate self- and peer-assessment. Group discussion of an anchor paper at the Practitioner level (meets the standard) encourages students to reflect on the process of developing strong solutions as they evaluate their own work or that of a math partner.
- A catalyst for learning. Examining an Apprentice-level (below standard) anchor paper as a class creates a teaching opportunity, encouraging students to identify incomplete or incorrect solutions and to explore and justify alternative approaches.
Practitioner Level Sample Anchor Paper (Meets the Standard)
Interactive Rubrics and Formative Assessment Tools for Self-Assessment
Another tool to apply: Exemplars rubrics for students. Rubrics present students with important information about what is expected and what kind of work meets the standard. Exemplars student rubric mirrors the expectations and performance levels of the Assessment Rubric, but is written in kid-friendly language and uses illustrations. This is designed to develop a learner’s ability to self- and peer-assess.
If you are teaching in a remote or blended setting, try using our interactive Student Rubric along with our interactive Problem Solving Process, which have been formatted for Google education tools. Both of these resources were created to help guide students through a self-assessment process in a remote environment. Share them with your students, collect results, and determine what areas to focus on with your next tasks.
In addition to these resources, Exemplars has made a sample of its professional development material available to help students and teachers both incorporate and benefit from successful formative assessment as well as self- and peer-assessment practices.
When you help your students build a robust practice of self- and peer-assessment, you’re giving them the skills to recognize the strengths in their own work—and to see where they could still do more to develop a solution. When effective assessment practices are so strongly linked to student achievement, it’s one of the most important ways to help them succeed.
And that’s a wrap on 5 Days of Exemplars! We hope you’ve enjoyed this detailed look at using our tasks and tools, and we hope you’ll take away tips you can use to engage and empower your students. To try these approaches in your classroom starting today, sign up for a free trial of the Exemplars Library. You can also request a quote or speak to us about your needs—or support your teachers’ skills through Exemplars professional development.