Language Sensei

A Language Teacher's Journey

Keys For Using Student Self-Evaluation in Discussions…


MP900341496Too often in the past a student would complete an oral, turn to me and ask “How did I do?”. Didn’t they know? Weren’t they aware of how it was going? Gradually I saw the need to change my focus from oral production focussed on grammar and vocabulary to interpersonal communication. And who better to judge how the communication activity went than the person involved? I use self-evaluation rubrics a lot in my classes for various oral interactive activities.

What are the key elements that need to be in place for meaningful self-evaluation?

A Robust and Flexible Rubric: All of the rubrics I use are based upon the same 4 key areas: Asking questions, responding to questions, utilizing vocabulary and structures and facilitating conversation. The current interation of my rubric represents a collaboration  with my DELF– focussed French teaching colleague Cara Babson and  #langchat colleague Natalia DeLaat (@natadel76). The rubric is based on those used by DELF but modified to suit my current needs. Perhaps best of all the rubric is an evolving document changing to meet communication goals and class needs. My current version is here if you are interested.

Student Awareness of Language Expectations: Build an expectation of language use and practice skills needed. We practice the art of the follow up question a lot. Class often begins with a prompt in English “Ask your partner…” with the words “who? when? why? what do they think of? how often? how good at?” etc below. Prompts relate to current units or topics of study. Sometimes we change partners several times – the short bursts of conversation allow for good practice. As a result students are capable of digging for deeper meaning when finding out information from their classmates

A Personal Challenge to Meet During the Activity: I have moved to using the Rubric now before we even embark on the activity. In particular I ask students to write out or put a star/check mark next to their personal challenge in the activity. Some focus on “no English” while others choose more personal ones such as “explain in Japanese”. Choose your challenge brings a heightened awareness of the goal of the exercise and ‘sets the stage’ for the interaction.

Written “Self-Debriefing”: For ‘summative orals’ I don’t let them do the rubric right away. Rather they turn it over and must reflect in writing first. Initially I ask them to answer a key question posed by the teacher. For example “When I heard that we were going to debate the environment in Japanese I…”  I then follow up by asking them to relate some aspect of the oral that they were most proud of. If the oral is not a major summative one then the student must support their self evaluation giving the reasons ‘why’ behind their choices.

An Absence of “Numbers”: I will admit this is my latest development in my rubrics, and it comes courtesy of my correspondence with Natalia. I am replacing the ‘numbers’ traditionally used with the DELF rubrics with the ‘word’ descriptors. This allows students to focus on the ‘content’ of the rubric descriptor and not it’s perceived value. The first time that I used it with students I encouraged them to circle the phrases that they felt applied to them – no matter what ‘square’ they were in. They truly thought about their language use and were very thoughtful in their responses when they supported their choices. I do eventually ‘convert’ these rubrics to a number, as my school asks me to do, but that is then my doing and not theirs.

The more that I work with rubrics, and student self evaluation, the more I see the rewards for my students. They are more involved in their interactions with others and more confident of their strengths, and what they want to improve on. The journey will continue…


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