Think Tank

Jul 11, 2020, 9:45
Instructors and Students Need to Build Assessment Tools

Instructors and Students Need to Build Assessment Tools

03 August 2019

Build effective measurement devices for you and your students that factor in both external- and self-assessments.

By Paul Sorgule, MS, AAC

Throughout our lives we are always being evaluated. At birth, the doctor scores us immediately to establish a baseline for the days and years to follow. How do we fit into a list of standard averages for height (length), weight, head circumference, number of digits, etc? From that point on, this insistence on relying on an outside party to assess our performance and potential becomes increasingly intense.

Can we jump, align our early vocabulary to a standard, speak in complete sentences, repeat words, show understanding, whistle, snap our fingers, ride a bike, walk a straight line, skip and run – all of these measurements compare us to an accepted standard of being average, below average, or above average.

In school it is all about comparing our work to what is deemed right or wrong, acceptable or unacceptable, and in line with what the school or the teacher believes to be important. It is this same outlook on standards that will drive acceptance into college, job performance reviews, and worthiness of credit or loans. We are evaluated by others from birth to death. But, what about living up to our own standards, the intended perceptions of our own being that, in the end, are far more important than anything that others may choose to measure us by?

Should a test ever trump the knowledge or skills that we have gained or the progress we have made toward having confidence and self-respect? Does an employer’s measurement of our individual performance carry as much weight as how we assess our own work, effort, and drive toward a level of excellence? When we look in a mirror do we like what we see or do we ask whether or not others like what they see?

Measurement is important and is one of many ways to establish a person’s contribution or contribution potential. It is a way to define the best path for each of us, but is it the best way to determine that path? Should we, professional educators and mentors, consider alternative ways of measurement that factor in the individual’s self-assessment as well as that of those around him or her?

Why not start with yourself? Look in a mirror and ask a few questions:

  • Did I improve my base of technical knowledge this year?
  • Did I assess and modify my approach in the classroom to achieve better results?
  • Do I know how well the students in my class felt about their own growth as a result of my class?
  • Did I put enough effort into each class preparation to set the stage for student growth and acquired knowledge?
  • Did I create an environment for learning that allowed students to interact with topics and, as a result, experience what it means to “know?”
  • Did I take every opportunity to learn as much from my students as they hopefully learned from me?
  • Did I take the time to listen at least as much as I talked?

If you answered these questions honestly, turn the process around and see how you might use this same approach to build an effective measurement device for your students – a tool that will encourage students to look at themselves and begin to understand that education is a two way street. Maybe, part of your classroom assessment could look like this:

As a student:

  • Did YOU improve your base of technical knowledge this year?
  • Did YOU assess and modify your approach in the classroom to achieve better results?
  • Are YOU aware of how well you have grown as a result of this class?
  • Did YOU put enough effort into each class preparation to set the stage for your growth and acquired knowledge?
  • Did YOU participate in the class environment for learning and interact with various topics and topic discussions so that you might experience what it means to “know.”
  • Did you take every opportunity to offer as much to others as you learned from them, including the instructor?
  • Did you take the time to listen to others and talk when you had something to say?

There are many things that educators feel are important to assess, and from their experience they are likely correct more times than not. But, there are many intangibles that, in the end, lead to better work performance, improved self-worth, and inevitable long-term success. These are the factors that earn your graduates the right job, the chance to move forward, strong friendships and relationships, life-long meaning, and self worth. Shouldn’t we provide an opportunity for students and others to evaluate their own connection with these success factors?

• How well do they get along with others?
• Do they show respect for others regardless of their position?
• Do they give their best in the moment and then turn around and work at getting better in the next?
• Are they organized?
• Are they dependable?
• Do they listen and pay attention to what others have to say?
• Are they honest and transparent?
• Have they pushed the concept of “mediocre” out of their vocabulary?

The list can go on, but the intent will be consistent: measure what is important, never measure to point out inadequacies, but rather to discover what needs to be worked on. Measure by allowing each individual to understand where they are headed and how important it is to self-assess their commitment along the way.


Paul Sorgule, MS, AAC, president of Harvest America Ventures, a mobile restaurant incubator based in Saranac Lake, N.Y., is the former vice president of New England Culinary Institute and a former dean at Paul Smith’s College. Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..