4 Encouraging students to evaluate their own writing

Traditionally, assessment of learning has been considered solely the teacher’s responsibility. Increasingly, however, teachers in many countries have started to realise that students can and should be involved in assessing their own progress. Self-monitoring or self-assessment draws on the ability that students have to judge their own work and identify ways of improving it.

Now read Case Study 2.

Case Study 2: Using a marking ladder

Ms Mayuri is a teacher in Patna. Here she describes a self-assessment tool that she has used successfully with her Class V students.

When reading a teaching publication, I learned about something called a ‘marking ladder’. I decided to try it out with my students. In a marking ladder, the student collaborates with me to evaluate a piece of their writing. I set the learning objectives, and we both decide if they are met. [An example is shown in Table 1.]

Table 1 An example of a marking ladder that assesses imaginative story writing. (Adapted from Symons and Currans, 2008)
Student’s name
Writing task
Student Writing objectives Teacher
My story is set in an imaginary place or time.
It describes what can be seen or heard or touched.
There are make-believe characters.
I used special effects such as magic.
I used some made-up words.
I used adjectives to create atmosphere.
What I could do to improve my story

With a marking ladder, the student first evaluates themselves (left-hand column) against the learning objectives that I have set. I then assess their work and give them brief written feedback (right-hand column). They then write out what they plan to do next (final row). This process not only engages students in monitoring their progress but gives them additional reading and writing practice.

I can use the assessment ladder with different areas of writing development, whether creative or information-based, and with students of all abilities, adapting their learning objectives accordingly.

Sometimes I pair an older or more able student with a younger or less confident one, to evaluate a piece of work together. My students keep their marking ladders in their exercise books so that I can review their progress over time.

Being involved in their own assessment is very motivating to my students. I have noticed improvements in their work as a result of our two-way written exchanges.

Pause for thought

  • How do you feel about this kind of joint assessment between students and teachers? What are the benefits? What are the possible challenges?
  • How can the information from marking ladders contribute to your lesson planning?

Activity 5: Constructing a marking ladder

Using the example in Table 1 as a guide, construct your own marking ladder for the area of writing development that your students are involved in.

Table 2 shows the beginnings of a marking ladder that assesses descriptive writing. You can adapt the ladder to whatever best suits your lesson.

Table 2 The start of a marking ladder that assesses descriptive writing.
Student’s name
Writing task Descriptive writing
Student Writing objectives Teacher
I make it clear what is being described.
I include a variety of adjectives.
I use clear, precise language.
What I could do to improve my story

Once you have devised your marking ladder, photocopy it and distribute it among your students. Explain to them how it works, using an example of a completed version if possible.

Try using the ladder over a period of a month or term, ensuring that all your students are given feedback over that period.

Pause for thought

  • How did you find the experience of using a marking ladder with your students?
  • How did they respond?
  • Did you notice any benefits in their language and literacy development as a result of using the marking ladder?
  • In what ways did you use this assessment technique to inform your lesson planning?

Resource 2, ‘Assessing progress and performance’, provides more information and suggestions on effective assessment practice.

Video: Assessing progress and performance

3 Different approaches to student assessment and feedback