Giving Students a Say


When providing feedback on your paper, I usually include a grid with Context along the left margin and Content across the top, i.e. questions about the book (view this video Make It Happen–Feedback with Thinking Maps) . Because Give Students a Say provides a study guide (a couple chapters after the Conclusion chapter), it seems an opportune time to provide you a choice option. Rather than have me as instructor ask five of my questions, I will ask you to choose five question clusters from the study guide (no two from the same chapter and at least one from chapter 6). Clearly identify which question clusters and chapter you are addressing. Be sure to specifically cite elements of the book in your writing, and include elements from at least one article or video from the course readings that relate to the book. Also include integration ideas you have for your classroom setting. Five to eight pages – label it AsgmtBkGS and be sure to include your name in the name of the file (e.g. AsgmtBkGS – Lennie Symes).

For your convenience, below is the list of the study guide questions from the book:

Study Guide Notes

This ASCD Study Guide is designed to enhance your understanding and application of the ideas and strategies presented in Giving Students a Say: Smarter Assessment Practices to Empower and Engage, an ASCD book by Myron Dueck, published in January 2021.
You can use the study guide before or after you have read the book or as you finish each chapter. The study questions provided are not meant to cover all aspects of the book, but, rather, to address specific ideas that might warrant further reflection.
Most of the questions contained in this study guide are ones you can think about on your own, with a colleague, or in a study group with others who have read (or are reading) Giving Students a Say.
Remember to visit to download figures and templates featured in the book, along with a few that didn’t make it in!


  1. John Hattie challenges the reader to carry out two simple tasks: (1) Ask your students to grade themselves on an assessment before they start it, and (2) after you have graded the assessment and returned it to students, ask them to write a few simple statements about what they learned about their learning and what steps they should take next based on their grade and your comments. Would you consider tackling this challenge with your students? If you do, compare students’ predicted results with how they actually did to determine whether Hattie’s findings apply to your students. Finally, does your feedback give students a clear idea on where next to take their learning?
  2. After students complete a test and you grade it, to what extent do you see it as feedback for you? How could you use student assessment results as valuable insight into how you might change your instruction, strategies, or approach?

Chapter 1. The Elevator Pitch

  1. Terry O’Reilly suggests that many of the world’s top companies do not sell their product so much as what the consumer gains by using that product. For instance, he argues that Michelin does not sell tires but, rather, safety through the delivery of tires. Consider this idea through your educator lens. Whatever you teach, what is your purpose beyond the content and concepts of your subject area? What exactly are you “selling”?
  2. Consider taking the “Summerland Secondary challenge” described on page 3 with your district, school, department, or classroom. Explore a potential elevator pitch that answers the following question: Why should students attend my [district, school, classroom]?
  3. Assess your own learning environment according to the three Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) principles listed on page 5. Using your thumb to demonstrate three levels (thumb up, thumb sideways, or thumb down), to what extent does your learning environment (1) recognize students as the core participants, (2) demonstrate sensitivity to student differences, and (3) operate with clear expectations and assessment strategies that reflect those expectations?
  4. What role has student voice played in your development as an educator? Can you think of a student or two whose feedback, opinions, or insight influenced your thinking or actions? If so, what specifically did they say, and why is it something you still remember?
  5. Many educators have been challenged to deliver a high-quality educational experience for students during the COVID-19 pandemic. How has your own educational experience during the pandemic changed your interaction with students or parents? Have a conversation with your team or a colleague around how ways of communicating learning to parents may have been forever changed.

Chapter 2. Sharing and Cocreating Student-Centered Learning Targets

  1. Hypothetically drop yourself in the “Death Race” described at the beginning of the chapter. How desperate might you feel if you did not know where the finish line was? Do you have your own experiences with starting a task or mission without knowing the end goal? How does this affect your thinking around sharing learning goals with your students?
  2. This chapter focuses on the importance of clarifying, sharing, and cocreating learning objectives with students. Consider the three questions posed on page 14. To what extent (a) are you clear on the learning targets, (b) do you give students some say in determining their learning path, and (c) are you prepared to give up more control when it comes to important assessment decisions and the direction a student might take in their own learning?
  3. Look at the differences between learning standards and learning targets as observed by Moss and Brookhart on page 16. Consider the arguments presented up to and including Figure 2.1. Now answer one or all of the following: What steps have been taken in your district, school, or classroom to transform learning standards into clear and understandable learning targets? What is your next step in furthering this translation, and what is the deadline you give yourself for completing it?
  4. This chapter discusses the importance of both verbs (actions/depth of thinking) and nouns (content/knowledge) when it comes to clear learning objectives. Go “verb hunting” through your own targets and assessments. Search out some of the key verbs found in your learning standards and determine the extent to which these same verbs are reflected in your learning targets and assessments. For instance, if your standards ask students to analyze or evaluate, is this reflected in the instruction and assessment tools you employ?
  5. Consult Figure 2.2 and the account of Ben Arcuri and Russ Reid (pp. 29–31) to start this conversation: Is it valuable to build learning targets with students and formally provide room for them to include their own specific learning targets (as they relate to the unit or topic of study)? Could you open the door for students to explore their own interests within the structure of a learning unit or topic? Consider taking on this challenge on your own, or with one or more colleagues. After you have tried it, ask your students for feedback on the process and arrange a time to gather with other colleagues who tried it to critically assess the experience.
  6. If you teach elementary students, use the Elementary Unit Plan Template in Figures 2.4 and 2.6, as well as the story about Sloane (pp. 32–34), to explore how you might share and cocreate learning targets with your learners. Plan a time to meet with a colleague to discuss the template and how you might use or adapt these ideas.
  7. If you teach middle or secondary students, compare the unit plan structures in Figures 2.1 and 2.2 with that of Figure 2.7. Which configuration do you prefer? Are there elements you might take from each in designing your own?

Chapter 3. Using Rubrics to Assess Performance

  1. This chapter looks at how to design rubrics to be used by both teachers and students when tackling more complex learning targets. Consider the five questions on page 40 as an icebreaker to this chapter. How could you use these questions in a staff or department meeting with the goal of enhancing collective capacity around performance assessments?
  2. The shift to using assessment to describe student performance rather than judge it is a critical one when tackling the topic of rubrics. How might this shift change the way students use feedback? How might it change the way teachers communicate evidence of learning with students?
  3. When students have clear success criteria, they are in a much better position to produce assignments and demonstrations of learning that correspond to those criteria. To what extent do students in your class, department, or school understand the expectations and components of their assignments? Can they use these criteria to reflect on their own learning and understand what they need to do next in their learning? Can teachers and students describe what solid understanding looks like without using points or percentages?
  4. Take a moment to look up standards for your class or one of the courses in your school. If you need help, just Google “learning standards for [your state, province, or country].” If your public, private, or international school subscribes to a program such as AERO, C3, IB, or NGSS, look up the standards on those websites. Once you have located the standards for your grade level and subject, conduct a survey of the types of verbs used in those standards. As well, look at the content that is associated with those standards. Then look at your assessments and determine the extent to which your assessments are aligned with the verbs (action) and nouns (content) in your standards.
  5. Considering the information discussed on page 50, look at a rubric—one of yours or one used in your school. Next, determine whether the criteria are listed as nouns (e.g., “topic sentence”) or as verb statements (e.g., “compose a topic sentence”). If necessary, how could you rephrase your criteria to give clear direction on the action a student should take?
  6. Consulting the seven design considerations (pp. 56–64; see also Figure 3.9) either individually or as a team, critically assess the extent to which your rubrics align with the checklist. Strategize how you will address one or more of the considerations presented. Develop a timeline as to when you will report on your progress. Throughout the process, try to obtain students’ feedback on the effect that the changes have had on their understanding and use of rubrics.
  7. How could you adopt the nature of either the secondary or the elementary walkabout assignment for your teachable area? Can you think of other ways to challenge students to digitally capture manifestations of concepts in their school or community and reflect on these through the the curriculum?

Chapter 4. Involving Students in Ongoing Assessment

  1. What should you do when your observations of and experiences with a student’s evidence of learning are not consistent with their testing data? What have you done when this situation occurs?
  2. Read the section on desirable difficulties beginning on page 81. Can you identify a desirable difficulty you’ve experienced in your own life? Why do you think you still remember it? Did it result in a deeper understanding or lasting memory? Discuss with a colleague.
  3. To what extent is your classroom a place where Bjork and Bjork’s four suggestions for building desirable difficulties are alive and well?
  4. After reading pages 85–87, do you have a sense of discomfort about your own classroom? If you had to choose, which element do you think your gradebook would greater reflect: short-term performance or long-term learning? If you are unsure, how might you determine this?
  5. If tests are indeed study events, as research indicates, does this change or reinforce your current beliefs around retesting or ongoing assessment?
  6. Many districts are in the process of considering a move to standards-based grading. Consider the implications of testing structures such as the one featured in Figure 4.1 in assisting in this venture.
  7. Discuss the merits and efficiencies of a unit plan and tracking system such as the one in Figure 4.3. What might this look like in your classroom?

Chapter 5. Creating Fair and Sensible Grading Systems

  1. How can you build homework grading policies, late work protocols, and behavioral reporting systems that uphold the notion that grades should only reflect the extent to which a student has met the learning outcomes?
  2. Are you involved in any type of assessment outside of your school, such as community sports, clubs, or organizations, as a member, a parent, or an organizer? What scale or system is used to assess or test someone in that realm? Does it differ from your approach to scales in school? If so, reflect on and discuss the difference and possible reasons for the discrepancy.
  3. Consider this question at a staff or departmental meeting: To what extent are schools one of the last vestiges of the percentage system? Divide into two groups, flip a coin to decide who is on “team small extent” and who is on “team great extent,” and let the debate begin!
  4. Thomas Guskey argues that the biggest issue with the use of zeros is our marriage to the percentage system. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
  5. How would you describe the highest level of achievement in your school or district: mastery, extending, exceeding, sophisticated, A+, 100 percent? What about the lowest? Explain your answers.

Chapter 6. Student Self-Reporting: “It’s More Than Numbers”

  1. This chapter begins with a few stories that could spawn conversations between two colleagues or at a staff or department meeting: Tom Brady, Jarvis Landry, and the challenge of relying on data to predict success—even for NFL athletes. The study conducted at the Wediko Summer Program suggesting that student behavior is greatly affected by the context or situation as opposed to children’s inherent traits. The various iterations of the “marshmallow study” suggesting that students make rational decisions (even if they are negative or appear irrational) based on past interactions, their level of trust in adults, or their expectations of the environment.
  2. How do one or more of these three accounts influence your thoughts or beliefs around the value of asking students to report on themselves?
  3. Do you ever ask students to self-report on their learning? If so, look at the four components of accuracy derived from the work of Rosen, Porter, and Rogers (2017) found on page 137. Examine your own experiences with student self-reporting through the lens of one or more of these components. Do you believe students were accurate in reporting their own learning? How might you change your reporting or assessment structures to increase accuracy?
  4. Although many students are very accurate in reporting their own learning, how do you plan to deal with situations in which students either significantly under- or overreport their own performance? Read the passage about the basketball coach on pages 138–140. How can you leverage these conversations to add value to the learning process for both student and teacher?
  5. This chapter explores the power of sharing circles in creating a learning environment that is safe for students to share their experiences, opinions, and ideas and even to resolve conflict. The author argues that structures such as sharing circles spill out into other areas to further create safe classroom communities. What are systems you currently have in place, or would consider adopting, to build safe environments for students to share, discuss, and self-report? If you have tried a sharing circle, do any of your experiences mirror the ones described in the book? If you have never tried a sharing circle, would you consider it? Do you have a colleague that might join you on this journey?
  6. When exploring “conversation-based grading,” it can be powerful to ask students to come up with a grade for an assignment or term before the teacher shares their opinion or data. What value do you see in having students come up with a grade before you do? If they struggle to know where to start, what structures could be put in place to change that? For instance, are students tracking their grades? Do they have clear criteria, exemplars, or models by which to determine where their demonstration of learning lands on whatever scale you are using? Is the language used to report on learning inside your classroom conducive to these types of conversatons? ^ref-3596
  7. Figure 6.4 presents various sources of evidence that might be considered when a student is trying to answer the question What is my grade? Do you have some elements you might add to this conversation? Would you remove any shown in the figure? Consider how you might approach a conversation with a student around behaviors that are not graded but that might be negatively affecting the student’s grade (e.g., tardiness, excessive absences, or disruptive behavior).
  8. Are you required to use reporting language that you struggle with on a philosophical level, such as percentages? Would a conversion such as the one featured in Figure 6.5 be a valuable component to help with conversion or translation
  9. This chapter presents the argument that students should be central in the reporting of their work ethic, disposition, or effort. On page 160, referring to his work ethic score, high schooler Xavier asks, “Why don’t they just ask my opinion?” Do you agree or disagree with Xavier? Who do you think is in the best position to report on something such as student effort? What school or life experiences would you draw on to answer this question?
  10. Figure 6.9 is a self-reporting template designed to be used at the grade 2 level. Do you think students at all levels can be invited to self-report on their own learning? What are key considerations specific to elementary school, middle school, high school, or postsecondary levels?
  11. If we believe that we all learn from our mistakes and struggles, what specific structures are in place in your classroom or school that reflect this reality? Would you consider introducing something such as the “desirable difficulty” journals discussed on pages 156–158? What prompting questions could you use?
  12. Figure 6.10 presents one way we could ask students specific questions about their behaviors, attitudes, and actions. Either individually or as a department, team, or staff, consider what changes you might make to this document to reflect specific issues you are focused on or concerned about.
  13. Tolisano and Hale suggest that we challenge students to report on learning that lies “below the surface,” or that only the student could know. Carter Bryant said, “In football, you can have the greatest arm or run the fastest 40-yard dash, but truthfully, what will matter most are the things you can’t see.” How do these ideas influence your thinking about student self-reporting? Would you consider using a form like the one in Figure 6.11 to assist in this venture? Do you have access to digital spaces or portfolios through which students could self-report in this way?

(choose at least 3 as a cluster)

Consider the following short questions and quotes as prompts for conversations at any level in your school or district.

  1. “Nothing positive was ever gained by embarrassing a student” (Elliot Eisner recounting an experience in Benjamin Bloom’s university class).
  2. “How well you measure something is important, but not nearly as important as what you are measuring and why you’re measuring it” (Thomas Guskey reflecting on Benjamin Bloom’s advice that we always consider the context/situation from which we derive assessment data).
  3. “I needed to ask the people who were in the best position to plan, engage in, assess, and report their own learning—my students!” (Myron Dueck reflecting on his second major paradigm shift).
  4. “From the very first day of kindergarten, it is vital that children learn to advocate for themselves” (emphasis added) (Jessica Lahey on the importance of student voice). How can you help your students learn self-advocacy?
  5. “In that moment, I saw before me a student who clearly understood where he was in the learning progression and what he needed to do to move forward” (Mark Osborn on the culmination of a student self-reporting experience). What are you doing to help students know where they are in their learning and what the next steps are?
  6. “In every aspect of assessment, we will engage and empower the student by offering opportunities for student voice, choice, self-assessment, and self-reporting” (Myron Dueck’s elevator pitch for the purpose of assessment). What is your elevator pitch?