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How good are you at self-assessment? (Av 2)

February 28, 2013

Teachers know a lot about this. Having to spend the academic year assessing students’ work, they develop some knowledge of the problems around self-assessment. Not only that, most teachers are lifelong learners, and have to assess their own work all the time. So one thing we teachers know is this: students are really bad at self-assessment. Their self-assessment world is primitive, it tends to be a black-and-white world, a deadly pendulum — the move from “The teacher flunked me!” to “I’ve always been really bad at this.” They move from sentencing teachers to not ever being heard to sentencing themselves to life-long incapacity.

So here is some advice. Mull over it. It’s more helpful than it may seem at first sight — and not only for language learning.

flyawayStop brainwashing yourself with sentences like “I’ve always been bad at this.” The more you repeat something, the more deeply it roots in you, becoming Reality. Politicians know this, business people, and war mongers, so that’s why the sentences they repeat the most are generally lies. They know lies become Reality if repeated ad nauseam. When you tell yourself and others that you are not good at something you are meant to be learning to be good at, you are not being critical, you are not using critical thinking. You are making sure you will never be good at that. That’s all you’re doing — making sure you remain incapable of overcoming some problem you feel you should be able to overcome. That’s irrational and self-destructive. So spread your wings and fly away from the cage!

The difference between critical thinking and self-destructive attitudes is precisely this — critical thinking allows us to move on, to learn, to grow, to outgrown what we are not good at. Self-destructive attitudes sentence us to remain in the well of not being able to improve in some skill, to learn about something. So if your self-assessment is you’re hopeless at something, you’re making a mistake you should fix. Fixing this will take time, so you need to get to work now, and keep working till you overcome it. That’s all. Intellectual work is like climbing a mountain. There’s risk all the time. There’s effort. Practice makes us stronger. And then we grow! And the feeling is amazing. And then you need more learning because your life becomes increasingly interesting and gives you such happiness! Learning is also like traveling! And there’s more — having the chance of learning along with other classmates is an amazing chance — take advantage of it, don’t waste it! All of the people in a class are part of an organic body that is learning together, not only individually. (For me, every year, with each group, I feel like I make an amazing journey, full of discovery, events, adventure! I don’t see why you shouldn’t feel that, too!! 😀 )

Get GrowingStudents — including adult learners — should pay more attention to teacher’s advice on how to work on things to succeed in their learning by actually getting started! Professionals of learning know how to ease the path to learning, and people who don’t know much about learning tend to fill the path to learning with obstacles. Learning is not magic. It is part of a PROCESS. And this process is complex and takes time. What teachers try to transmit with their stories and “tips” on learning deserves some attention. So before discarding the options they offer, if you have a learning problem, a performance problem, pay attention to what your teacher says, give that a try, keep at it for some time, until you master the technique, until you understand in depth the value of the idea your teacher has put forward. Then you will be ready to discard it, or improve it. Doing this before you’ve even tried is not critical thinking.

The Masked Procrastinator!So, get to work. Stop telling yourself you can’t learn. Stop pretending you know it all about why you can’t learn. Avoid stagnating in that horrible place, in that place that breaks your wings to fly away from those pits. Be a critical thinker and work to overcome your mistakes, weaknesses, fears, complexes, the lot! We are not doomed. Human minds are amazing and there is no limit to all the learning they can actually do!

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