The extent to which students identify themselves as having grasped the content of the lesson from the day.
Use this measure:
Educators can make their own version of this poster to hang in the classroom.
Measurement instrument overview
This student self-assessment measure involves an “exit poster” hung in the classroom that lists four categories in which students can identify themselves:
- I am very confident with this. I can teach/coach someone now.
- I can do this on my own. I can show I understand.
- I can do this with help or an example in front of me.
- I am having Productive Struggle. I will need some help or think time. I will not give up!
At the end of a math lesson, students place a magnet with their name into the category that they feel best represents their level of understanding.
Connection to student learning
This measurement tool is designed to give teachers a quick snapshot of how well students feel they grasped the main concept of the day. Teachers can use the exit poster data to check their perceptions about students’ mastery of the concept and to reflect on the success of the lesson. In conjunction with other evidence of students’ mathematical thinking, the exit poster data can help inform decisions about the next day’s lesson.
These decisions could, for instance, involve teachers deciding to continue with the same concept on the following day if many students identify that their understanding of the concept is at a level 1 or 2. Or the data could prompt teachers to differentiate their attention and activities toward certain students who identified themselves as needing more help. Teachers might choose to partner students who identified themselves at a level 4 with students who expressed needing “some help or think time.”
The exit poster data can also help teachers reflect on whether they want to teach the lesson in the same way in the future. If teachers were to set up a system to track the exit poster data over time, the data could serve as another data point to consider in understanding which concepts are more challenging for students, compared to other concepts.
Furthermore, when students use the poster to identify their own level of understanding, they practice metacognitive reflections about their own learning. In a classroom context that is focused on developing student agency, this poster can further that goal.
What we know about how well this measure works for its intended use
There is anecdotal evidence from teachers at one school that the student self-assessment poster was helpful to their instructional decisions and practice. The teachers in this school also had access to their students’ math thinking through students’ journal writing.
This exit poster could be used at the end of every math lesson that involves problem-solving (i.e., lessons in which students are provided a cognitively demanding math problem to solve).
Measurement routine details
The exit poster should be located somewhere in the room where students will have easy access on their way out of the classroom at the end of a math lesson. If the poster is on a magnetic surface, magnets with student names need to be prepared in advance and placed near the poster so that students can move their name to the correct spot at the end of a lesson.
In one school’s prior use of this exit poster, students were given time to reflect on their learning in their math journals before being directed to indicate their self-assessed level of understanding for the day as they finished the lesson. Students ended their journal work by writing what their key learning was and how they learned from their peers. Thus, they had already been reflecting on their own learning before using the exit poster to indicate their level of understanding for the day. (Student journals are discussed in further detail in the “Measure in Practice” vignette below.)
Data analysis details
This exit poster provides teachers with a quick visual at the end of the lesson that shows where the class generally is with regard to their self-assessment of understanding. Teachers can count the number of students in each category to see how students identified their level of understanding. They might make notes on specific students’ need for additional support, especially those who identify needing more time to understand the concept. Over time, teachers could track trends in these levels of understanding at the class level. Tracking trends can help teachers see whether there are certain concepts for which student understanding is lower, which may prompt teachers to focus on improving their instructional strategies the next time they teach it.
Conditions that support use
- The teachers who used the exit poster were engaged in a lesson-study approach to improving their math instruction. The exit poster was a simple, quick, and immediate way to get a “pulse check” on student understanding.
- Teachers used the poster in a context in which they had access to other data on student mathematical thinking through math journals, and rich professional learning with colleagues and experts.
- Teachers spent time working with students to promote a growth mindset about math learning and a culture of safety in sharing mathematical thinking. Central ideas included that productive struggle is good and that mistakes are opportunities for learning.
- Teachers acknowledged, honored, and celebrated each students’ mathematical thinking over time so that every student could see their own thinking as contributing to the class learning.
- Students may not represent their own mathematical understanding accurately on the poster. They may not realize what they have not yet grasped, or they may feel social pressure to say that they do understand the material when they do not. It is important for the classroom environment to support students being transparent about their lack of understanding — they should not feel judged or evaluated if they report that they do not yet grasp the material. These data should also be used in combination with other sources of information about student understanding.
- When students consistently rank themselves at a level 1 or 2, this may reinforce a negative message to some students that they are not mathematically inclined. Conversely, if students consistently rank themselves at a level 4, this may push a different but also negative message that math is “easy” for some students and that they do not need to work hard at it. As mentioned in the support factors, the ways in which teachers share and represent student thinking for the benefit of the class can shift misperceptions of static or “inherent” ability.
Other tools and resources to support use
Read more about Teaching Through Problem Solving on The Lesson Study Group at Mills College website.
The use of the student self-assessment exit poster took place at a school engaging in “Teaching Through Problem-solving,” in collaboration with The Lesson Study Group at Mills College. The Teaching Through Problem-solving approach uses problem-solving to build students’ new mathematical knowledge: “Students grapple with a novel problem, present and discuss solution strategies, and together build the next concept or procedure in the mathematics curriculum” (from The Lesson Study Group website).
The teachers at this school use student journals as a way to support students to explore, document, and consolidate their thinking while enabling teachers to see into that thinking. The journals involve students writing the math problem, independently solving it, and sharing their solution with a partner. Teachers then select students’ solutions to share on the board and lead a class discussion about mathematical thinking. Students conclude their journal work by writing about their own learning from the day’s lesson, and these reflections become the source of the start of the next day’s lesson. It was after this journal activity that one teacher began to use the exit poster as a way to capture a quick glimpse into students’ self-perceptions of their math understanding for the whole class.
Students completed the exit poster by moving their name magnets into the correct category, allowing teachers to quickly collect data to check their own assumptions about which students understood the concept being taught. Results from the self-assessment poster could prompt the teacher to attend to students who were struggling or to spend more time on concepts many students found challenging. The teacher could also have students who identified as “confident” coach other students the following day.
The exit poster data were considered concurrently with other data, such as students’ journal entries, to establish a more complete picture of students’ mathematical thinking. When considered alongside teaching practices, exit poster data also served as a way to critically reflect on the success of these teaching practices.
Teachers spent the first month of school on a concerted effort to convey a growth mindset message to students and to establish a classroom culture in which all students’ mathematical contributions are valued. The mindset and culture work were essential in making the student self-assessment poster a reliable source of information where students felt safe to be transparent about how they perceived their own grasp of the material.
Catherine Lewis, Educational Researcher and Director, The Lesson Study Group, Mills College
Shelley Friedkin, Senior Research Associate, The Lesson Study Group, Mills College
Sara Liebert, Principal, San Francisco Unified School District
Website: Teaching Through Problem-solving project at the Lesson Study Group at Mills College
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