Student Self-Evaluation and the Pregnant Pause

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A few years ago, I was knee-deep into the second day of student self-evaluation and discussion about report card grades, and I realized just how powerful the old “pregnant pause” can be.

I have found over time that most of my students choose the grade I would have, if I were assigning the grade, instead of asking them to do it, when report card time rolls around. A very small percentage of students initially ask for a grade that seems too high, based on their production. When this happens, I pause and respond with, “Really?” Then, I pause again and silence fills the air.

This pregnant pause is important, because it sends the student back to reflection and self-evaluation. A moment later, most say, “Well, maybe the grade should be lower.”

It’s important to note here that I’m in no way trying to manipulate students into selecting a lower grade. In fact, I tell them that I will give them whatever grade they choose. “I want you to give an honest evaluation,” I say. “When that report card arrives in the mail, you need to be satisfied that you were honest with yourself.”

This honest self-evaluation is one of the most important elements of the Results Only Learning Environment and a classroom built on SE2R feedback.

The pregnant pause is an excellent way to help students really consider what they’ve accomplished over time.

What strategies do you use to help students assess their own learning?

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Mark Barnes is the Founder of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series, The uNseries, and other books from some of education's most reputable teachers and leaders. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Connect with @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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