Student Self-Assessment in Lower School Takes Off

With fall term report cards on the horizon, Burke’s third and fourth graders are being encouraged to take a stronger voice in how their digital work portfolios are assessed by applying self-analysis tools and teacher feedback to better understand how they learn.
This in-development project is one of several points of collaboration between Lower School Librarian Susan Faust and Makery Facilitator Jenny Howland. The teaching team is exploring how student portfolios are evaluated at Burke’s, and whether the current report card model could reflect a more student-centered approach to spark learning growth and awareness.
This academic initiative is the latest example of the dynamic between the Library and Makery. The two departments continue to complement each other in several areas. As the Library encourages students to generate information, wrestle with ideas and tap into their imaginations, the Makery allows them to turn that matter into real and virtual products to further learning, creative confidence and self-expression.
For instance, fourth graders recently selected a Newbery Award-winning book they were first exposed to in the Library, brainstormed an idea for an object that represents the book and then took that concept to the Makery. There, they used graphic-design software to create an image of the object and then sent it to the Makery’s 3-D printer. (In the photo below, one student created a locket for the 1991 book by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, Shiloh.)
The two departments began their portfolio assessment work during the summer through a Parents’ Association summer grant. The growth in teacher professional development is one of the main priorities of the Four-Year Strategic Plan.
“We’re looking for a way to better assess how students apply learning. We think there are authentic, meaningful and useful tools out there to help us weigh student work and promote growth. We want to bring students back into the process,” said Howland.
Faust and Howland believe the assessment of student portfolios could incorporate more self-appraisal by students, which would help them identify progress, enjoy success and learn from setbacks – all important factors to academic growth. In addition, they will be better prepared for the self-assessment expectations as they reach Upper School.
“The important questions they should be able to ask are what did I do well? What were my challenges? What did I learn that will help me grow as a thinker?” said Faust.
Faust and Howland enlisted Mike Matthews, Director of Curriculum and Innovation, to help investigate digital platforms that could house the portfolios, which incorporate audio, video and photography of student work, and allow for teacher comments and provide parent access.
Faust and Howland are working with students to define criteria to define and describe the important components of the work being assessed (a rubric). Students are better able to consider their role in the creative process and end product. This marks the beginning of a shift in focus to self-assessment, as students reflect more on their work and teacher feedback instead of report cards.
All of Burke's progress toward fulfilling the goals of the Strategic Plan will be documented on our new Strategic Plan in Action page. Keep checking back over the course of the year to see more items added as they happen!
Burke's mission is to educate, encourage and empower girls. Our school combines academic excellence with an appreciation for childhood so that students thrive as learners, develop a strong sense of self, contribute to community, and fulfill their potential, now and throughout life.


An independent K–8 school for girls
7070 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94121
Phone: 415.751.0177 Fax: 415.666.0535
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