This post answers the 36th question from my TeacherToolkit Thinking page of Thunks.
Thunk 36: Is self-assessment effective? by @Mroberts90Matt
Is self-assessment effective?
Lesson completed, objectives identified, learning activity tackled, five minutes to go.
As a trainee teacher for some reason I always seemed to have the desire instilled in me to conduct a self-assessment opportunity. I can never remember where this desire came from. Stefani (1994) is just one of the many voices who promote self assessment as a positive opportunity for children’s learning progress. Not only can we do this, but I think there are further opportunities to improve the quality of self assessment.
One example is in using iPads effectively in writing instruction (Harmon, 2012). Through the use of this technology, learners can become more critical of their learning through the instant (and sometimes unforgiving) feedback that is given. However, I can’t help but be a little sceptical about this assessment tool which originates from my own classroom experience.
Whenever I ask for children to self-assess their learning, I find that as the teacher, I have already decided through my own observations how the students’ learning has taken place. Yet, when their self-assessment does not match my observations, what does that mean? What is my next step in light of this judgement? I’m unsure. However, I also found that self-assessment provided an avenue where children could not only express their feelings, regarding how they have learnt, but also how the learning activity worked for them which helped me mould a more effective curricular experience.
Of course, self-assessment can sometimes be unreliable. I think the largest deviation (obviously) is found among students who do not understand the success criteria. They may have also not understood the objective. However, something jumps out to me and has got me thinking – whose assessment has more value? Is it the teacher’s assessment or the learner’s assessment which adds more value? Arguments could be made for both. The teacher is trained professionally to assess, evaluate and improve learning. In a medical environment, the patient cannot self-diagnose their condition. However, the learner (e.g. patient) also knows intrinsically how they feel about their learning.
For me, this question has highlighted further, that perhaps a balance between the two sources of assessment may be in order to provide a more accurate snapshot of the child’s learning. Of course, the next question is; what is the correct balance? For me personally, self-assessment will be something worth pursuing. However, self assessment is a skill that, like most other skills, needs to be taught and practised if it is to be worth it (Towler and Broadfoot, 1992). Once a class have been taught ‘how to’ and can practice self-assessment, it will be more likely be a fruitful and accurate focus to deploy in the classroom.
So, what will you do? Do you use self-assessment in your teaching practice?
Does self-assessment form a concrete evidence based of children’s learning or is it used more as a motivational, reflective opportunity for the individual child? If you do use self-assessment, how do you implement it? Do you use it regularly throughout or at the end of the session? Or are you unconvinced and find self-assessment to be a wishy-washy attempt at creating a ‘child-centred’ education(?) which does not have the same educational value as assessment – by the teacher – leading to a tangible target for future development?
What do you think? I’d appreciate your comments below.
- Harmon, J. (2012) ‘Unlock Literacy with iPads.’ Learning and Leading with Technology, 39(8), pp.30-31.
- Stefani, L. A. J. (1994) ‘Peer, self and tutor assessment: Relative reliabilities.’ Studies in Higher Education, 19(1), pp.69-75.
- Towler, L. and Broadfoot, P. (1992) ‘Self-assessment in the Primary School.’ Educational Review, 44(2), pp.137-151.
Matthew has just completed his BA(Hons) in Primary Education at Manchester Metropolitan University. He will soon commence his NQT Year at an expanding school in South-West Manchester as KS2 teacher. He writes on his educational blog, Robert’s Room. You can read more about him here and follow on Twitter at @Mroberts90Matt.