Is self-assessment effective? by @Mroberts90Matt

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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.

by @PW2Tweets
by @PW2Tweets

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.

What if?


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.

Written by @Mroberts90Matt and edited and posted by @TeacherToolkit.


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.

Matt Roberts
Matt Roberts

@TeacherToolkit says consider Praise-Question-Suggestion at the bottom of the page and also watch Austin’s Butterfly.

5 thoughts on “Is self-assessment effective? by @Mroberts90Matt

  1. Self assessment and peer evaluation do need to be taught, reinforced and used over an extended period so it becomes routine. For me, self assessment is part of the process of handing responsibility back to learners so they may develop as independent learners and engage in the process at a far deeper level. It is also part of the permanent dialogue between teacher and learner and within the learner: an ongoing process of questioning, evaluating, reconceptualising and questioning, and evaluating again. It is part of the process which embeds an inquiry cycle into individuals cognitive process.
    Therefore it is not an option but like all tools it must fit the context and goals. Developing this tool so that it becomes a valuable and taken-for-granted routine means developing within learners the ability to be critical and realistic about their achievements. This takes time, support, reassurance and the development withing students the ability to understand objectives, set outcomes and criteria. This in itself is a huge task teachers often glide over In order to get to the meat of process.
    Self assessment therefore poses a set of challenges to the educator all of which through their resolution moves the learner forward in her ability to be successful in academics but more importantly to developed reflective and critical abilities essential to navigate the ever changing and complex world.
    Self assessment and peer evaluation are not simply a tool we may choose to use but the foundation of the reconceptualisation of the roles of the educator and learner, education itself and the goal of the whole process.

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