Centre for Development of Teaching & Learning (CDTL)
How can we use self-assessment to help students develop evaluative judgement and at the same time, gather feedback to inform our own teaching practice?
Gan, M. J. S. (2023, August 29). Increasing feedback opportunities: The uses of self-assessment. Teaching Connections. https://blog.nus.edu.sg/teachingconnections/2023/08/29/increasing-feedback-opportunities-uses-of-self-assessment/
Self-assessment involves students evaluating and appraising their own work. A key importance of self-assessment is to “generate feedback that promotes learning and improvements in performance” (Andrade, 2018, p. 377). It is this active interaction with feedback information and processes that can help students in achieving their learning outcomes. It also suggests that self-assessment adds value through a formative purpose, creating opportunities for students to engage with self-feedback. Self-feedback or internal feedback, which is informed by external feedback—feedback from teachers, peers, and other sources—refers to the metacognitive processes such as self-monitoring and self-evaluation which are key to task completion and self-regulation of learning.
Besides focusing on student-generated marks, which is often compared to those generated by teachers, the emphasis of self-assessment should be on interpreting and using criteria to develop evaluative judgement. Students should also be encouraged to self-assess in comparison with high quality work, so that they learn to refine their understanding of quality and improve their judgement in relation to what is expected within their disciplinary community.
One concern by teachers on self-assessment is students’ ability to accurately evaluate their own work, and to generate useful feedback. This is especially the case with low academic achievers. Another concern is that students tend to be less willing to take on the role of assessor, or to perform self-assessment, with the lack of confidence and experience in making evaluative judgement as well as the preference for teachers’ affirmations and correct responses.
However, the counter argument here is that providing opportunities for students to self-evaluate and to be mindful of their own performance may lead to greater reflection about their own biases or assumptions about quality work and to make explicit their self-feedback processes, which in turn, allow them to better engage with external feedback. Often, this applies to low achievers as they tend to adopt poorer self-feedback approaches, which are not easy to correct, without making these approaches ‘visible’ to the students themselves.
To help ensure that self-assessment is meaningfully implemented, here are some key guidelines (Panadero et al., 2016b):
- Communicate and clarify criteria by which students assess their work.
- Teach students how to apply the criteria (e.g. the use of rubrics with exemplars).
- Give students feedback information on their self-assessments.
- Give students help in using self-assessment data to improve performance.
- Provide sufficient time and opportunities for revision after self-assessment.
- Do not turn self-assessment (solely) into self-evaluation by counting it toward a grade.
Let’s consider some practical examples on using self-assessment in your courses.
1. Design tasks and activities which introduce students to the idea that the ability for self-evaluation and the capacity to make informed judgements are valuable qualities.
For example, introduce exemplars (good samples of students’ work) to students and require them to identify strengths and areas for improvement through a rubric or checklist. Encourage students to discuss and share their views on what constitutes a piece of quality work, in relation to the criteria. Subsequently, design tasks that require students to make use of the criteria to self-assess their own work. This usually takes the form of drafts, multiple feedback cycles and revisions, before submitting the final version of the assignment.
2. Create opportunities for students to participate as assessors and engage in meaningful dialogue with others about the assessment processes.
Involve students in reciprocal peer review of their reflection write-ups. For example, besides submitting a final report of what they are required to accomplish, include a reflection write-up to explain how their understandings had developed over time and how that has helped in preparing the final report. Students are then asked to review and discuss one another’s reflection through peer feedback.
3. Integrate strategies for helping students develop a better understanding of the criteria and other assessment procedures.
Self-evaluation tasks can be incorporated into lessons through quizzes, the use of polling tools (e.g. PollEverywhere), self-rating checklists, one-minute papers (used mostly at the end of the lesson), and student-generated questions (e.g. PeerWise).
In the case of one-minute papers, students are usually prompted to:
- Write down the three key things you have learned in today’s lecture.
- In your own words, tell me what you understand about [insert concept here].
- What was the most confusing point in today’s class?
- How useful was the group exercise that we did in class today? Please give details.
- After reading the feedback, what is one important area that you would like to start working on?
In the case of quizzes, besides getting students to try until correct (with feedback prompts), students can also be given a choice on re-submitting their own best answer after discussing with peers.
As a teacher, the above approaches offer multiple sources of evidence to help modify your instruction and to further enhance your own reflection as well as your self-feedback!
Andrade, H. (2018). Feedback in the context of self-assessment. In A. A. Lipnevich & J. K. Smith (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of instructional feedback (pp. 376-408). Cambridge University Press.
Pandadero, E., Jonsson, A., & Strijbos, J. W. (2016b). Scaffolding self-regulated learning through self-assessment and peer assessment: Guidelines for classroom implementation. In D. Laveault & L. Allal (Eds.), Assessment for learning: Meeting the challenge of implementation (pp. 311-326). Springer.
Mark GAN is an Associate Director of the Centre for Development of Teaching and Learning (CDTL) in NUS. He has been involved in a wide variety of higher educational initiatives and programmes to enhance professional development of staff, such as courses for developing a Teaching Portfolio and writing of teaching inquiry grants. His research interests include feedback and assessment, and the impact of academic development work on teaching and learning. Mark has a PhD in Education from the University of Auckland, supervised by Professor John Hattie.
Mark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.