Each individual has his/her own way of expressing concepts, memories and ideas. Organizing experiences logically through words and pictures does a great deal to help students learn. I use reflection in my class as a tool to help us make sense of our learning, and to guide our actions in practice. If the children can express their experiences both through drawing and speaking, they can be more aware of what they are they learning from the curriculum and classroom activities. They can also be more active and efficient in their learning.
Our kindergarten has a theme and project-based approach to curriculum. Before each project or activity, the teachers ask the children to share their previous experiences both orally and through drawing. During the project process, children share their preferences for different activities. After the theme-based project is finished, teachers have children review their learning and take notes on whether they achieved the goals they set out to accomplish.
This year, one goal I had for my students was that after each unit, students would be able to clearly communicate to their peers and teachers about what kind of activities they liked and why they liked them. Furthermore, I hoped they would be able to draw pictures of their experiences and use words to express what they thought. In this way, children can improve their learning by reflecting on their experiences in an orderly way over time, developing the skills, habits and abilities which derive from critical reflection.
For example, the theme of September was “Back to School.” The children shared what they learned last year in their Pre-K classes. Then, teachers designed projects and activities according to the children’s previous experiences, to review the concepts they had learned (names, shapes, colors, and Chinese numbers). In addition, teachers helped the children get to know their new environment and new friends through playing games. After the “Back to School” theme was over, the children reviewed all the activities they did during September, and evaluated whether they had achieved their learning goals.
Self assessment is not only a tool for children to assess themselves, but also a tool for teachers to evaluate the curriculum they design. For example, teachers sometimes observe children participating actively and completing their work very well. However, during the self-assessment, they only give themselves low grades, which shows that the children don’t understand the learning goals.
Reactions to the Self-Assessment Process
After the children are done with their drawings, teachers will take the student’s photo and help them add an “I can statement” below it. Teachers also explain to students one by one what the number scale on the self-assessment means. For example, 4 represents “I can complete it on my own and I can help others.” 3 represents “I can do it by myself and I make little mistakes.” 2 represents “Sometimes I need help and I am starting to understand.” 1 represents “I can’t do it by myself and I don’t understand yet.” After hearing the explanation, the children evaluate themselves according to their performance in the activity and choose one number.
During this self-assessment process, I have found that there are three different types of children. Some children are very confident and assume that they can understand each activity and help others. Other children are very careful. After teachers explain the meaning of the four numbers, they think carefully about whether they understand and helped others during the activities. If they did, they will choose number four, otherwise, they will choose number three. A third type of student, although they may be capable of a 3 or 4, only choses number 1 or 2 in their self-assessment.
Teachers can get to know which type each student is and adjust the curriculum according to their personalities. For example, if most of the children are the first type, teachers need to explain and demonstrate more clearly during the curriculum or activities. Teachers can use one child as an example and explain how he or she completed the activity and how he or she helped others. Therefore, it will be clear why the child can give himself or herself a number four when doing self-assessment.
If the student is the type that always gives him or herself a low score, teachers can ask them why they think they deserve number one or two. Which part didn't they understand? Did they ask for help? Teachers can then provide better assistance and help them evaluate themselves more clearly.
In conclusion, teachers hope that the children can be more aware of what they are learning through self-assessment activities. One of the best ways to change our experiences into meaningful learning is to think about what we are doing and why we are doing it. Self-assessment can make children’s learning more student-centered. The children are involved and they can decide how they should be evaluated.