We strive to sharpen critical and creative thinking skills, enhance development of intellectual maturity and increase student responsibility for his or her own learning.

In addition to learning social science, philosophy, and history, Polyhistoria students will learn about their own learning becoming more self-reflective learners. We do this in three stages:

Stages of intellectual growth
  1. Stage One: Apprentice historian. Getting individual feedback and guidance from the instructor.
  2. Stage Two: Evaluating the work of other students through peer assessment. In reviewing and judging the work of peers, students will also learn how to improve their own work.
  3. Stage Three: Self-assessing. Moving from dependent to more independent learner who monitors and improves their own work.

The attention to improved, self-reflective learning is value-added for Polyhistoria courses. Additionally, students will improve other skills, including deep reading, critical evaluation, analysis of evidence, and historical thinking. 

The Value of Student Self-Assessment

Successful students learn to self-assess. Part of that process is evaluating the work of others (peer evaluation) and comparing the work of others with their own. There is a strong, healthy interaction between peer assessment and self-assessment, and learners should practice both.

“The ability to self-assess accurately and constructively judge the work of peers is an essential learning skill that teachers have the responsibility to develop during their students’ college years.”

Maryellen Weimer, Learner-Centered Teaching (2002, p. xix)

We want learners to move from being dependent learners, always requiring external prompts and guidance, to independent thinkers who can honestly and critically evaluate their own work against explicit standards.

As instructors, our goal is not to be mother robins—chewing up the text for the students and putting it into their beaks through lecture. Rather, we teach them how to read the text for themselves, actively and analytically.

In other words, we focus on teaching students how to read the text not on reading the text for them.

In Polyhistoria courses, students are not just getting some facts about history, they are practicing essential cognitive skills to become mature, higher-level thinkers.

Self-assessment encourages the process of intellectual maturation.

Students need to learn to conduct critical evaluations of their own academic work – it’s called metacognition – a key skill of successful students. Becoming more self-aware and self-critical will improve their performance in any course.

In sum, “critical thinking is the art of taking control of one’s thinking. As such, it means continually bringing thinking to the conscious level, followed by assessing it for quality, identifying its flaws, and then reconstructing it. Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous standards of excellence and mindful command of their use.”

Richard Paul and Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking
Concepts and Tools, Foundation for Critical Thinking Press, 2008

Practice at self-assessment encourages students to become self-correcting learners, not passive ciphers awaiting orders on what hoop to jump through next.

“Self-assessment refers to the involvement of learners in making judgments about their own learning, particularly about their achievements and the outcomes of their learning. Self-assessment is formative in that it contributes to the learning process and assists learners to direct their energies to areas for improvement. The term is used to encompass the two key elements in any assessment decision: the identification of criteria or standards to be applied to one’s work, and the making of judgments about the extent to which work meets these criteria.”

Boud and Falchikov, 1989

Like any skill, it takes practice.

Self-assessment “encourages students to become self-conscious about their own development and progress rather than receivers of preordained judgments from external sources. We are convinced that the quality of the written work has improved in previous years and that this can be attributed in large part to the process of self-assessment.”

Denscombe and Robins, 1980

In this sense, self-assessment promotes student empowerment and self-actualization. Research at the high-school level has identified a strong link between self-assessment and student empowerment. Thus, self-assessment is akin to becoming an excellent editor with the skills to improve writing and thinking.

“Recent years have seen an increase in interest in the ways in which students may be encouraged to take more responsibility for their own learning. Life-long learning requires that individuals be able not only to work independently, but also to assess their own performance and progress. Self-assessment may be regarded as a skill and, as such, needs to be developed.”

Falchikov and Boud, 1989

Research over the past three decades points to a correlation between increasing student abilities at self-assessment and improving performance across a wide range of disciplines. A class that merely asks you to jump through hoops teaches you little and certainly cannot enhance critical thinking skills.

Polyhistoria courses are an opportunity for students not only to learn about history but to develop important, useful lifelong learning skills.

“Student self-assessment provided a significant new dimension to the predictability of actual performance independent of and supplemental to traditional data sources.”

Trepagnier, 2004

Read Our Teaching Philosophy