Building confidence in studentsConventional school assessment system has failed to achieve its initial objective as a gauge of students’ performance and of providing teacher with data to revise lessons so as to accommodate the development of students. It has been utilized predominantly to pigeonhole students and intimidate the under performers. Alternative assessment system, consisting of student-involved assessment, student-involved record keeping and student-oriented communication, is investigated here in order to promote the concept of student ownership, which is critical to students’ academic development.
Assessment should promote student confidence instead of being a means of punishment in conditioning student learning behavior. While it is teacher’s responsibility to develop the full potential of students, conventional assessment is counterproductive to this objective. It has been utilized in a similar manner as the stimulus of operant conditioning (Staddon). The objective is to increase the frequency of desired behavior, namely, study. The reward of this behavior is a high score in assessment test, prestigious college and a potentially successful career. The punishment, on the other hand, is a low score and all the prospective undesirable consequence. A number of students may respond to this inherently hostile system positively which leads to academic excellence, while the majority responds in a negative manner. This assessment system does not offer students any opportunity to actively participate; they are mere recipients of the stimulus. Students thus lack the motivation to begin with and the system further destroys the confidence of those who do not respond positively. It has come to a time to reevaluate the convention and search for an alternative that would actually help students build up confidence.
Richard J. Stiggins, president of Assessment Training Institute, introduces student-involved assessment as the first step of reconstructing student evaluation process. Students are brought in the process as partners, no longer mere assessee, in the case of student-involved assessment. They are “invited to play a role in defining the criteria by which their work will be judged” (Stiggins). Students should then apply
themselves to meet these criteria. They are evaluated in terms of progress they make over a period of time or through a succession of assessments rather than individual scores. The objective is to help students understand the vision of teacher in the nature of academic success.
Following assessment, students should also be involved in record keeping because it fosters a sense of responsibility in them. Responsibility and confidence go hand in hand, so it is essential to present students opportunities to foster them internally. Student-involved record keeping provides a platform for students to reflect on their effort and gradually build up their confidence. Teacher should discuss with students any room for improvement as well. They are invited to actively monitor their progress by building a portfolio and examine their work at regular intervals. These mechanisms, in effect, serve as reminders to students that they are held accountable for their actions. It can be a powerful confidence booster if it is implemented appropriately (Stiggins).
Students’ endeavor culminates in student-oriented communication, which is highly motivational. It can be led by either teacher or students as long as student is the focus. It can take place in the form of sharing session during class or student-led parent conference. It is critical for teacher to keep these meetings non-competitive; students should all be given equal opportunity to participate. They should also be given plenty of time to prepare themselves for sharing. The objective is to share the successful aspects of their work and improvement they have made. They would then experience a fundamental shift in self-perception when their efforts are recognized and reciprocated.
All three mechanisms attempt to promote the concept of student ownership, which advocates that students should be in control of their academic development. A research responding to the 1988 Education Reform Act suggests that there is a direct correlation between confidence and creativity in students (Davis). Confidence will only grow when students have a clear concept of what the expectation of school is. The objective of the alternative is to encourage students to become the causal agents of their own lives (Wehmeyer).
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Staddon, John E. R. & Niv, Yael. (2008). Operant Conditioning. Scholarpedia (3(9):2318). Retrieved Jan 22 2012, from http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Operant_conditioning
Stiggins, Richard J. (1999). Assessment, Student Confidence, and School Success. The Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 81. Retrieved Jan 22 2012, from http://www.jstor.org/pss/20439619
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