Metacognition essential to assessment (Issue 8, January 2011)

 – Given encouragement, structure and a little time, students are pretty good at identifying how to move theselves forward

When I started marking the end of module mock exam, it was clear that the group as a whole had underperformed. This was for a variety of reasons – lack of revision, misconceptions, misreading the questions and failing to make use of information provided were the most common. I wanted to use this as an opportunity for students to identify the reasons for underperformance and begin to address them.

I have always found ‘going over’ the exam paper, however, to be a very unsatisfactory exercise and wanted to make the task more productive. So I structured the lesson after the exam carefully to facilitate this.

For bell work students completed a graphic organiser so that they knew, not only knew which topics they had underperformed on, but also the reasons for underperformance. Next, they completed a concept map, starting with the concepts they had found most problematic. This ensured personalisation of the task and increased the relevance of the lesson to each child.

Following this, they had to pair / share with someone who was working on the same aspects to find additional, information and try to provide feedback to the other person.

Finally, the students were given a set of topic-specific, grade-related criteria and a task that related to the concept map. They were asked to carry out this task to the standard of their MQT initially, then their UQT when they had satisfied those criteria.

The lesson review was to answer the following questions, relating to the mock exam paper:

• Are you aware of why you did badly?

• Can you improve on your answer?

• What advice would you give yourself before the next end of module test?

The answers had to be emailed to me after the lesson, to encourage the students to reflect on their responses. This structure allowed the students to identify and address specific reasons for underperformance and led to a genuinely personalised learning experience for all in the group.

The reviews were thoughtful and showed that most had spent some time considering how their understanding had developed [see example resposnses below, Ed.].

Finally, the graded task was performed at a far higher level than the test – although this might have been expected of a different mode of assessment, the students were confident that their performance in the real module test would be greatly improved as a result of the exercise –

I’ll let you know…

Ian Nelson

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