Student: ‘Teacher, am I going to pass this course?’
Me: ‘What do you think? Do you have any thoughts about your performance so far?’
This is a conversation I’ve had many hundreds of times down the years and is one that convinces me that learners should at least be offered as many opportunities as possible to evaluate their own work and progress.
Implementing some kind of self-assessment is a very good thing, as it enables learners to judge the quality of their work. I’ve done this on an ad-hoc basis at times in the past, but using a formal instrument or procedure can work wonders, even if it has no official bearing on the final outcome. According to ‘Student Self-Evaluation: What Research Says and What Practice Shows’, an excellent article by Carol Rolheiser and John A. Rosself I uncovered while thinking about this subject, understanding how to use such tools will help you incorporate self-assessments into your learners’ learning process and enhance their understanding of they are doing. Here are 5 steps to bringing self-assessment into your classes.
1. Use self-assessments for self-reflection
If you can get learners contemplating what they are learning and how they are learning it, you’re on to a winner. This can be a simple step to initiate: learners can use a journal or diary to communicate what they have learned, how well they learned it and how they will use the knowledge.
Your role will be to keep this going beyond the first one or two entries, and can best be managed by requiring regular checks on journal entries.
2. Generate learner independence
When learners are given the chance to check their own work, they are instantly taking an active role in the assessment process. While most learners experience a feeling of independent when taking on what is, ostensibly, the teachers role, evaluating and reflecting on their own work, it is important that they are led into this.
Have a rubric or even a set of questions ready that they may refer to, get used to, and apply to their work.
3. Develop awareness of strengths and weaknesses
Self-assessment tools enable learners to better acknowledge and pinpoint their areas of strength as well as their deficiencies. While self-evaluations compel learners to assess their work in a way a teacher might, such tools also enable them to become more discerning. Another advantage of self-assessment is that it can enable learners to view their work objectively while acknowledging their skills and challenges.
What you need to do is provide checklists or rubrics that rate skill achievement, as these will help learners to determine their strengths and weaknesses; learners tick off whether they have met objectives laid out in the particular task.
4. Follow progress
When learners use self-assessment tools, over the course of time they will recognize their ongoing improvement, which is in itself a highly motivating factor. Using rubrics and checklists with a collection of student work contained in a portfolio offers learners the opportunity to track progress.
The big mistake I made when I started getting my learners to assess themselves was to assume that setting up the system and starting learners on their way would be enough. You’ll have to follow progress or many will simply stop assessing themselves in this way.
5. Set goals
Self-assessments such as learner contracts allow learners to agree on a starting point and then set a goal for themselves. It is important that you as the teacher work together with your learners to create a document outlining specific targets.
You should agree with your learner on the plan set out in the document, and then you should continually use the document to as a guideline for reaching goals. Don’t be angry if the goals aren’t met; sometimes you can agree on something that is unachievable, so don’t stress – or create stress in the learner – over having to readjust the goals.
Throughout this post I’ve talked about rubrics, question prompts and forms for you to fill out with your learners. By clicking here, you can see an example of the type of document I’ve used in the past.