Using effective self-assessment in teaching and learning

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March 28, 2022
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What is self-assessment?

Self-assessment can be understood as a form of monitoring or as a ‘descriptive and evaluative act’ which Learners can use to make improvements to enhance their knowledge and skills (Brown and Harris 2013). Self-assessment can be summative (i.e., assessment of cumulative learning/end of unit learning), but also formative (i.e., assessment for learning/diagnostic assessment) to support progress and achievement. Internalising the criteria for assessment can encourage Learners to go beyond rote learning and engage more deeply with course material. Self-assessment can also promote greater autonomy and independence as Learners are able to give feedback to themselves.

Evidence for the benefits of self-assessment

Results from studies conducted in higher education settings suggest that Learners do understand the function of self-assessment, especially when guiding revision (Ratminingsih et al.,2018). Learners report that this practice enables them to take greater responsibility for learning, think more critically and deeply, as well as apply new skills(Andrade 2019). Studies also recommend that teachers and lecturers use more structured activities that encourage reflection on learning progress (Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick 2006).

Self-assessment ideas: summative and formative tasks

Best practice in self-assessment means that assessment criteria should be clear and easily understood by Learners. This can even mean getting Learners involved in writing criteria to enhance their own understanding of the expected standard. Some steps for effective summative self-assessment include:

1)     Explain the purpose: Make sure Learners are aware of the benefits of self-assessment throughout the course; it will help them understand why it is worth the effort

2)     Discuss the criteria for the assessment: The aim of self-assessment is to enable Learners to take ownership of judging their own progress and work; it is necessary for Learners to understand what a ‘good’ outcome will look like

3)     Establish the process: Show Learners that they can be honest and critical about their own performance

Here are two ideas for formative self-assessment which teachers and lecturers can use in classrooms, seminars or through remote learning:

- One of the simplest ways to embed self-assessment in teaching is through self-assessment questions. These can be displayed on a board, projector, or paper handout for Learners to answer. Questions meet a range of formative and summative purposes, and can include:

          o   ‘What were the main points of the reading I have just completed?’

          o   ‘What is one thing I need to do to make sure I fully understand this task?’ or

          o   ‘How can I prepare for this essay in three steps?’

- Social media self-evaluation: get creative with self-assessment and ask Learners to summarise the learning outcomes of a lecture or seminar in a Tweet or Instagram story. Ask them to describe the lesson in 140 characters and think about which hashtags they would use to capture the main points. Alternatively, Learners can create an Instagram story using images which reflect the main points of a lesson or practical task



Andrade, H.L., 2019. A criticalreview of research on student self-assessment. Frontiers in Education, pp.87.

Brown, G. and Harris, L., 2013.Student self-assessment.  Sage Handbook of Research on Classroom Assessment, ed J. H. McMillan (Los Angeles, CA: Sage), pp. 367–393.

Nicol, D.J. and Macfarlane‐Dick, D.,2006. Formative assessment and self‐regulated learning: A model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in higher education, 31(2),pp.199-218.

Ratminingsih, N. M., Marhaeni, A. A.I. N., and Vigayanti, L. P. D., 2018. Self-assessment: the effect on students 'independence and writing competence. International Journal of Instruction, 11, pp. 277–290.

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