3 reasons you should build assessments as a class

All, Teaching Tips

This semester I have been experimenting with collaborative assessment. I lead my students through a collaborative process to build their own assessments for assignments. I was first introduced to this idea at our 2014 Writing Eastern Kentucky Conference by three Morehead Writing Project rock star teachers: Lindsay Johnson, Brandie Trent, and Leslie Workman.

My process is pretty simple. I usually separate this process from introducing the assignment, but we begin with that information. We review the assignment – specifically addressing the goals and purpose of the assignment and how those goals connect to the student learner outcomes for our class. I then have students brainstorm for a while about the essential qualities of a successful assignment. We then collaborate as a class to develop a definitive list of those qualities. After we have the list, we then discuss the priority and weight of each quality and what it looks like on this assignment. Each time we have done this in class, we have come up with a pretty good scoring guide and when I compared it to previous scoring guides (that I created solo in past semesters) I have been pleasantly surprised by how much they agree. The collaborative scoring is usually more streamlined and might even be better for it. While this is a time-consuming process, I am sold on the idea and think it is a worthwhile investment of our valuable class time. Here are three reasons why I think you should consider collaborating with your students to create their assessments:


I don’t know how things go in your classroom, but when I introduce a high-stakes assignment the anxiety level ratchets up in the classroom. Even when I reassure my students that they can do this (and in fact, thanks to my low-stakes writing assignments, they have already done a lot of work on this assignment) , there is a great deal of stress and worry and questions about a myriad of details about the assignment that mostly boil down to worry about how the assignment will be graded. Building the scoring guide together reinforces for my students that they do know what they are doing and gives them confidence in their ability to evaluate their own work because we have talked, in specific detail, about what a successful assignment looks like.


One of my primary goals is to prepare my students for the day they won’t be in my classroom. I don’t want my students to depend on my feedback to improve their work. I don’t want them to write or complete projects for me or based on my opinion. I want them to become self-regulating writers and learners. Collaboratively creating the scoring guides for their work is an important step in this process. One of the most challenging things for any writer is to learn how to evaluate our work. I know I still struggle with this every day and I read words every day (written by professionals) that could use the attention of a good editor. I hope this process can help my students learn how to look at their work through the lens of an editor or reader.


An important part of the process of becoming a self-regulating writer and learner is that you need to take control of your own work. Too often, and I am not blameless, we say we want students to be self-regulating and responsible critical thinkers, and yet we do not give them the chance the to practice these skills and, worse, we consistently show them that we actually expect the opposite with detailed instructions and restrictive assessments.

I admit it was scary the first time I tried this, but I found that initial class discussion to be one of the most meaningful of my teaching career. My students really displayed their understanding of the work we had done that semester and it was tremendously exciting to hear them explain it in their own words. By the second time, they seized control of the discussion and ran with it (see picture above). Do you use collaborative assessment in your classes? What are the benefits of collaborative assessment?

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