Using Self-assessment Letters for a Conversational Evaluation

Breaking the monopoly of evaluation

In the interest of supporting the autonomy of our students, we should seek every opportunity to place students “behind the wheel” of their own learning (see Ike Shibley’s “Putting Students in the Driver Seat“).

This issue becomes particularly sensitive when it comes to evaluation. We know what a powerful learning tool self-assessment is, as John Hattie has documented. We also know how teachers’ monopoly of evaluation has caused students to be passive in their learning, as Arthur Chiaravalli points out in “Teachers Going Gradeless: Toward a Future of Growth Not Grades“).

Entering into correspondence

Why not explicitly involve students in their learning by asking them to regularly write letters of self-assessment?

Inspired by Arthur Chiaravalli’s use of a “linked letter,” I ask my students to write and send me letters of self-assessment (see my instructions in French).

Below is an example of a student letter, which I respond to using the comment feature in Microsoft Word Online. The links students provided help foster a portfolio approach.



Keeping the conversation open

This approach is fruitful and contributes to develop a culture of continuous and collaborative evaluation. As Arthur Chiaravalli states, “The goal is to keep the conversation going as long as possible.”

Online correspondence can be rich. But it does not replace genuine individual meetings. Sadly, such one-on-one meetings are not easy to organize due the difficulty of finding sufficient time and space.

Recently, however, Catlin Tucker‘s “Station Rotation Model” caught my attention. This idea, coupled with her proposal to never to take grading home, is well worth exploring.

François Jourde teaches philosophy in Brussels, Belgium. He is passionate about pedagogy in the digital age. Find him on Twitter @jourde and

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