ing student data for every student in the classroom is made much easier with a classroom of people assisting in the same task. With a clearer vision of peer- and self-assessment and adequate time, teachers can get this help from their students and in the process help them to improve the quality of their own work.

Although there is no one way to develop peer- and self-assessment habits in students, successful methods will involve students in all aspects of the assessment process, not solely the grading after an exercise is completed. If students are expected to effectively participate in the process, they then need to be clear on the target and the criteria for good work, to assess their own efforts in the light of the criteria, and to share responsibility in taking action in the light of feedback. One method that has proved successful has been to ask students to label their work with red, yellow, or green dots. Red symbolizes the student's view that he or she lacks understanding, green that he or she has confidence, and yellow that there appear to be some difficulties and the student is not sure about the quality of the response. These icons convey the same general meaning of traffic lights and are so labeled in the class. This simple method has proved to be surprisingly useful with the colored dots serving to convey at a glance, between student and teacher and between students and their peers, who has problems, where the main problems lie, which students can help one another, and so on. The traffic-light icons can play another important role, in that they help to make explicit the “big” concepts and ideas of a unit.

With a teacher's help, much useful work in student groups can start from assessment tasks: each member of a group can comment on another's homework, or one another's tests, and then discuss and defend the basis for their decisions. Such discussions inevitably highlight the criteria for quality. The teacher can help to guide the discussions, especially during the times in which students have difficulty helping one another. Peers can discuss strengths and areas of weakness after projects and presentations. Much of the success of peer- and selfassessment hinges on a classroom culture where assessment is viewed as a way to help improve work and where students accept the responsibility for learning—that of their own and of others in their community.


Much as Ms. K and Ms. R do in the snapshots of their respective classes, captured in the vignettes, teachers continually make decisions about both the teaching and the learning going on in their classrooms. They make curricular decisions and decide on experiences they think can help further students' understandings.

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