Explore Strategies-Teaching Excellence & Educational Innovation - Carnegie Mellon University

Step 3: Explore Strategies

Explore potential strategies.

Students don’t demonstrate critical thinking.

Students don’t bring a critical perspective to revising or iterating their own work.

Not surprisingly, it's often difficult for students to critique their own work. They may naturally fail to see their own errors; they may be accustomed to seeing themselves as high performers; they may lack appropriate criteria for evaluation; or they may not be in the habit of self-reflection. Unfortunately, when students fail to engage in self-critique, they miss opportunities to improve their work and their thinking behind the work. Supporting students to reflect on their own work or work process need not take a lot of time and effort and yet can promote students' development quite broadly.

Strategies:

Be explicit about criteria students should be using to evaluate their own work.

Give an assignment that involves giving feedback to peers as a stepping stone to self-critique.

Structure your assignments to include self-evaluation and iteration.

Highlight the broader value of self-evaluation and revision.

Be explicit about criteria students should be using to evaluate their own work.

Offer students a set of prompts and/or questions that they should be asking themselves (e.g., Have I considered alternative perspectives or counter-arguments? How can I make this work more relevant to the audience? Where are the inefficiencies or bottlenecks in my process and how can I reduce them?). This can be accomplished via a checklist or a rubric that you provide to students. Either way, you are giving students a guide and encouraging them to follow it. This supports students to engage in what may be an initially unfamiliar process and gives them a structure for practicing skills of self-evaluation.

Give an assignment that involves giving feedback to peers as a stepping stone to self-critique.

Given that self-evaluation is such a challenge, it can be helpful for students to get started by reviewing one another's work. Note that this requires some care, especially in how you frame the peer review. For example, it can be helpful to use the label "reader response" or "user feedback" to describe the process students will be engaging in. These terms emphasize the reviewer’s role as constructive and responsive rather than evaluative. Also, students need to know what they should be looking for in the work they are reviewing and how to communicate their feedback. Giving students a set of prompt questions to answer when they are reviewing can be helpful here, as is sharing a rubric with students and teaching them how to apply it. Note that in both cases, you are preparing students to apply the same review process to their own work.

Structure your assignments to include self-evaluation and iteration.

In almost any discipline, revision is an important part of the creative process (sometimes by an individual but more and more by multiple people collaborating). Unfortunately, students may not engage in self-evaluation and iteration unless assignments explicitly include the opportunity and incentive to practice these skills. For example, many instructors include multiple milestones in their assignments, requiring students to submit a draft to be revised before the final version. You can elaborate on this approach by asking students to submit a brief self-evaluation of their first draft along with an explanation of their revisions.

Highlight the broader value of self-evaluation and revision.

Emphasize to students that even though self-evaluation and revision are hard, they are important skills to develop. For example, you can explicitly make the case for these skills as keys to success by pointing out cases where experts in your field went through many iterations before "getting it right." Imagine bringing in a stack of papers to represent the many drafts that your wrote before an article, poem, or proof was finalized. In addition, you can explain to students that self-evaluation and revision are effective ways of deepening or enriching their understanding and hence improving their performance – by diagnosing areas that need improvement and targeting them. So, when students practice these skills in your course, they are building habits of mind that will help them in general.

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