Self-assessment is a powerful mechanism for enhancing learning. It encourages students to reflect on how their own work meets the goals set for learning concepts and skills. It promotes metacognition about what is being learned, and effective practices for learning. It encourages students to think about how a particular assignment or course fits into the context of their education. It imparts reflective skills that will be useful on the job or in academic research.
Most other kinds of assessment place the student in a passive role. The student simply receives feedback from the instructor or TA. Self-assessment, by contrast, forces students to become autonomous learners, to think about how what they should be learning. Having learned self-assessment skills, students can continue to apply them in their career and in other contexts throughout life.
While self-assessment cannot reliably be used as a standalone grading mechanism, it can be combined with other kinds of assessment to provide richer feedback and promote more student “buy-in” for the grading process. For example, an instructor might have students self-assess their work based on a rubric, and assign a score. The instructor might agree to use these self-assigned grades when they are “close enough” to the grade the instructor would have assigned, but to use instructor-assigned grades when the self-grades are not within tolerance.
Self-assessment can also be combined with peer assessment to reward students whose judgment of their own work agrees with their peers’. In Calibrated Peer Review, students are asked to rate the work of three of their peers, and then to rate their own work on the same scale. Only after they complete all of these ratings are they allowed to see others’ assessments of their own work. CPR assignments are often configured to award points to students whose self-ratings agree with peers’ ratings of their work. The Coursera MOOC platform employs a similar strategy. Recently a “calibrated self-assessment” strategy has been proposed, that uses self-assigned scores as the sole grading mechanism for most work, subject to spot-checks by the instructor. Self-assigned grades are trusted for those students whose spot-checked grades are shown to be valid; students whose self-assigned grades are incorrect are assigned a penalty based on the degree of misgrading of their work.
In self-assessment, as in other kinds of assessment, a good rubric is essential to a good review process. It will include detailed criteria, to draw students’ attention to important aspects of the work. The criteria should mention the goals and keywords of the assignment, so that students will focus on their goals in assessment as well as their writing.
This paper will cover the benefits of self-assessment, and then provide several examples of how it can be combined with other assessments.
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