In the opening vignette, students in Ms. K's class are drawing on a range of data sources, including their own and classmates' projects, library research, and interviews with local experts. In preparation for presentations, the students are encouraged to make the connection of the small-scale study they do with plant fertilizer to the larger local system. Opportunities for revisions and regular discussions of what is good work help to clarify criteria as well as strengthen connections and analysis, thus improving learning. Class discussions around journal reflections provide important data for teachers about student learning and also allow students to hear connections others have made.
For this transition to occur, peerand self-assessment must be integrated into the student's ways of thinking. Such a shift in the concept of assessment cannot simply be imposed, any more than any new concept can be understood without the student becoming an active participant in the learning. Reflection is a learned skill. Thus, the teacher faces the task of helping the student relate the desired ability to his or her current ideas about assessing one's self and others and how it can affect learning. How do students now make judgments about their own work and that of others? How accurate are these judgments? How might they be improved? Such discussions are advanced immeasurably through the examination of actual student work—initially perhaps by the examination of the anonymous work of students who are not members of the class.
Involving students in their own and peer assessment also helps teachers share the responsibility of figuring out where each student is in relation to the goals or target and also in developing a useful plan to help students bridge the gap. In addition to helping students learn how to learn, there are pedagogical payoffs when students begin to improve their ability to peerand self-assess. Collecting and utiliz-