On Learning Technology

Personal journal and portfolio of Harry Kalantzis.

Revolutionising Assessment

Inspired by James Pillans’ invention of the blackboard and colored chalk in 1801, Mark Barnes, a full-time education author and consultant from Ohio, suggests a remarkably simple way to solve a major problem: assessment.

The Problem

According to Barnes, the grading system we use to assess students by placing numbers, percentages and letters on their work “has been the norm for so long that it isn’t often questioned, but it continues to leave gaping holes in achievement and independent learning”.

This is also popular among all those Learning Management Systems out there that give teachers the ability to have a gradebook and add their grades in order to evaluate their students’ work. It is ironic how all these platforms, which are espousing a breakthrough in the 21st century education, adopt this traditional method.

That leads students to be often unable to assess their own knowledge and understand what they have or have not learnt. This is a problem that we need to fix.

The Solution

Barnes, in his book Role Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom, suggests Assessment 3.0, a replacement of traditional grades with conversation, self-evaluation and narrative feedback using SE2R.

SE2R stands for:

  • A one- or two-sentence Summary of what had been done.

  • An Explanation of what I observed that students had mastered, based on lessons and guidelines and what still needed to be accomplished.

  • When more learning needed to be demonstrated, I Redirected students to prior lessons and models.

  • I asked for reworked items to be Resubmitted for further assessment.

Here’s a sample from Barnes’ book that will make his idea clearer:

You have completed a how-to article and posted it to KidBlog. You highlighted words in the post in order to demonstrate understanding of the "Words that Pop" presentation.
The highlighted words are not words that make the writing "pop". Also, we reviewed how to use commas after introductory words and phrases, yet you haven't placed any commas by these words. For example, first, next, and then are all introductory words that should be followed by a comma.
You should review the presentation on strong adjectives and verbs, linked under RAY on www.barnesclass.com. Then return to your how-to-blog and improve it, based on the presentation. Also, add the commas where needed.
When this is done, please go to the "Write to Mr. Barnes" section on our classroom website and tell me that you have resubmitted this activity.

Table 1. Sample Student Feedback using the SE2R system (Source: Barnes, 2013).

Time For Change

The idea is simple. And as blackboard and chalk changed how teachers shared information in the classroom, SE2R gives the possibility to change how we assess what students learn. Plus, scoping SE2R to digital tools and learning platforms, we make real a powerful educational system that inspires independent learning and promotes achievement.


  1. Barnes, M. (2013). Role Reversal: Achieving Uncommonly Excellent Results in the Student-Centered Classroom. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
  2. Barnes, M. (2014). A simple idea that just might revolutionize education. Retrieved June 22, 2014 from Brilliant or Insane.
Under: Teaching and Learning