Evaluating personal quality of work and understanding of material is difficult for many students. When assessing themselves, students often struggle to differentiate intelligence from their understanding of a topic, or from the quality of their work. Self-assessment isn’t about how smart a student is; it’s about their strengths, areas of opportunity, and most importantly, what can they adjust to achieve better results.
For students with executive function challenges, this can be especially hard. They spend so much time trying to “prove” themselves to teachers, parents, and friends that it can be tough to approach their challenges from the perspective of “how can I improve and understand better,” and not “other students get this but I don’t.” (Some of our students are very self-aware socially, but lack self-assessment academically.) As educators, mentors, and parents, we need to help our students navigate this topic while building their confidence.
Breaking through a student’s defensive barrier takes a strong relationship and rapport. This relationship, built on trust, is important to help students self-assess and develop a more cumulative understanding of themselves. Additionally, many of the students we work with live deeply in the moment. Although it’s an admirable quality, this can lead to a lack of perspective, and very little time is spent on self-reflection. Here are some questions – and more importantly, follow up questions – we can ask students to help them build self-assessment skills and encourage reflection.
What time of day do you perform best?
After a difficult day, how do you recover in order to study or complete your nightly routine?
If forced to learn something quickly, what do you do?
What type of people do you work best with?
How long can you study before “zoning out?”
For each of these questions, dig deeper and ask these open-ended questions to spark reflection:
What works for you, and why?
What are some examples?
How can we use this to make you a better student?
Use the answers from these questions when:
● Creating routines (the hardest tasks should be completed at the time you perform best)
● Deciding what time to study and complete homework
● Determining if/when to attend office hours and other formal study groups
● Deciding where to study
Thinking through questions like these, especially open-ended questions, will help students develop a stronger understanding of how/when/where/etc. they learn best. It’s important to revisit these questions frequently; students are constantly evolving!