I'm not exactly sure when it happens, but at some point in many of our educational journeys we lose the ability to judge our own work. We can no longer look at what we've produced and decide whether it's good or great or just ok. We need someone else to tell us, to give us a grade.
As a high school educator, I see the results of this loss on an almost daily basis. Kids really do not know if what they have produced, be it an essay or a video documentary, is "good". They wait for the grade, and then they know. I can't really blame the kids. After all, they've been dealing with getting assessed since kindergarten, striving to meet some external set of benchmarks, told that they have fallen far below, approached, met, or exceeded.
What worries me is that this lack of ability to self-assess stays with many of us into adulthood. Just the other day I was talking with a group of my colleagues about what I'd like to see in the porfessional growth plan that all teachers will be expected to complete. One of my central values as an instructional coach is that teachers feel a sense of autonomy and authenticity as they develop a question that will drive their thinking all year. In other words, I want teachers to grow in ways that they feel are personally and professionally relevent TO THEM.
My sense, during the conversation, is that this style of professional growth felt too ambiguous, too time consuming, not concrete enough. Very few at the table seemed particularly excited about the fact that they could choose what they wanted to focus on and then do just that. I wondered if my colleagues wanted simply to be told what to do.
If we want our students to develop a clear sense of what makes their work "good", then don't we need to do the same for ourselves?