Nonyel’s definition as quoted above focuses on the process and stops at incorporating the results of the process into the definition. McMillan and Hearn’s definition is similar except that they add “identification and implementation of
instructional correctives as needed” (2008, 41). They also state that the learners “provide feedback to themselves based on well-understood standards and criteria.” It’s more than just a reflection based on observation and experience; it is formative and based on external criteria. In the classroom that criteria is offered often in the form a rubric. The attached rubric is an example of a self-assessment rubric from a Differentiated Instruction course. The students can use it to self-assess the lesson plans they created. The criteria are graduated and task-specific.
The inclusion of a rubric as part of a definition of self-assessment makes it more teacher-centric – assuming that the instructor is the person who created the rubric and not the learner. It can be argued that this is necessary in formal, organized learning situations; however, there are times when a rubric is not as important or should not be part of the equation. For instance, a learner may register for a webinar, or attend a conference with personal learning objectives that are a subset of the instructor, presenter, or facilitator.
It is the standard for webinars and conference workshops to not have rubrics. Also, self-assessment may begin before the learner is in the class. The enrollment or registration may be the beginning of the “implementation of instructional correctives” (McMillan and Hearn, 2008, 41)
Background and Interest
My interest in self-assessments comes from some experiences I have had as a teacher. At the beginning of a lesson or new topic I will usually ask students what is their knowledge of or experience in that topic. A few students raise their hand to say that they have significant or some knowledge or experience; however, ensuing informal dynamic assessments and activities show that that at least one of the students who responded had rated their skills or knowledge higher than s/he should have. I have also experienced the opposite, where a student rated themselves lower than I would have but that has happened significantly less often. Self-assessment is a component of many learning theories. I decided to look further into this topic to see whether my anecdotal observations have also been observed in research studies and if yes, how useful are student self-assessments.
Theory of Self-Assessment
Mary Kalantzis and Bill Cope (n.d.) list the following principles for general assessment in the classroom.
1. Assessments over a learning unit should consist of formative and summative assessments
2. Assessments should test the “full range of knowledge process required in the Learning Element;’’ the set should
cover the whole learning unit or a “special assessment task” such as a concluding project.
3. Assessments should be recursive; ubiquitous.
4. Assessments should involve multiple people: learner, peer, parents (if learners are children), subject matter
experts; invited critical friends
5. Assessments should determine the quality of knowledge and performance in the domains of “experiential,
conceptual, analytical and applied.”
6. Measuring imagination, metacognition, problem solving, teamwork and multimodal expression should be standard.
7. Measurement of teamwork includes the ability to collaboratively construct knowledge and make productive social
8. Peer reviews include open, one-way blind, two-way blind, and moderated
9. Assessments should measure learners’ ability to extract knowledge from collaborations and other resources of
knowledge such as experience, research articles, observations and apply that knowledge.
10. Assessments should be able to justify quantitative ratings with qualitative judgments.
11. Portfolios are part of assessments; they include objective evidence of what has been learned, ratings, and
commentaries and “not just what you can infer they have learnt in an end-of-program test.
Using Nonyel’s (2015) definition of self-assessment as “reflection, self-judgment, and self-monitoring to summarize one’s strengths and clarify areas for improvement”, then self-assessment comes into play in item 4 (ongoing reflection); item 6 (metacognition, problem-solving); items 10 and 11 (reflection). This leads to a theory of self-assessment as a recursive process whose goal is to solve a problem or actualize a concept; and the process must create metacognition. If this process is recursive, then opportunities for self-assessment must be given throughout a course of study which suggests having multiple rubrics instead of one provided for final outcomes which is summative and not formative. Does this matter if self-assessments are not accurate and vary from teacher assessments?
Evidence of Problems with Self-Assessment
Jean-Baptiste, K. C., (2020). Students’ self-assessment compared to teachers.[Video].
In a review of research evidence on student self-assessment, John A. Ross (2006) asks four questions (p. 1):
1. Is self-assessment a reliable assessment technique?
2. Does self-assessment provide valid evidence about student performance?
3. Does self-assessment improve student performance?
4. Is self-assessment a useful student assessment technique?
Ross concluded for the first question that “adequate consistency involved students who had been trained in how to
evaluate their work” but the consistency waned over longer periods of time. This decrease in consistency was acute with young children; and it varied among subject matter (2006). Using as a definition for validity to mean “agreement with teacher judgments” he found the results mixed in part due to “the criteria used by teachers and students were frequently not defined; there were few replications involving comparable groups of students,” and “self-grading was not defined” (2006, p. 3). Ross further goes on to discuss validity in terms of evaluating evidence that self-assessment does improve student performance. In answering the third question he discusses validity in terms of consequences.
The studies Ross reviewed found that students who participated in self-assessment did have positive achievement outcomes. Because of this, he concludes that self-assessment is useful (2006, p. 7), especially if the students are cocreators of the rubric for self-assessment and are trained on how to apply it.
Heidi L. Andrade (2019) reviewed research primarily conducted between 2013 and 2018 on student self-assessment. Like what Ross (2006) found, the results of the studies that Andrade reviewed showed mixed results for consistency (in terms of comparing scores to teachers) but a “positive association between self-assessment and learning”
(2019, p.8). She also found that the type of external criteria used made a difference. Students who were given performance-based criteria for self-assessment as opposed to competence-based rubrics performed better
(2019, p. 9).
Besides achievement, improvement of learner's communication skills (Nonyel, 2015), do other benefits exist?
The following video on self-assessment shows how some students view self-assessment as a benefit because it provides clarity. Also demonstrated is a way to create self-assessment for students in this elementary school. Studies show that students do better when they are co-creators of the rubric. (Ross, 2006).
JFF. (2013, August 22). Self-assessment: Reflections from students and teachers. [Video]. Youtube.
Ross (2006) also looked at how teacher’s viewed student self-assessment. Responses included that students were more engaged, especially if they were involved in the process; also students learned more.
Not all studies showed that students or teachers found benefits. Some students thought it was “boring” or felt that it was the instructor’s responsibility to assess students and students should not be involved. (Ross, 2006). The following Table 3 by Chris Andrews lists teacher response to interview questions regarding student self-assessments (SSA).
Application and Innovation
Multiple tools exist that provide an opportunity for students to practice self-assessment: external criteria such as
performance- and competence-based rubrics; LMS’s such as Common Ground Scholar created by Mary Kalantzis and
William Cope which has a built-in review component. The KWL graphic organizer asks learners to assess what they know, what they want to learn, and what they have learned about a subject. Other opportunities are online, quiz makers that can be designed to have students think about how they feel about what they are learning.. One of them is Bookwidgets.com. A link from one of their blog posts illustrates how it might be done (MyWorksheetAssessment (bookwidgets.com).
Another self-assessment tool comes from Brainscape.com. Brainscape is a company that has an innovative way to use digital flashcards. The software uses an algorithm that recycles flash cards based on a learner’s confidence about the answer. The assessment is based on the confidence that learner feels about knowing the answer. Terms for which the student expressed low confidence are repeated more frequently than others.
Below are screenshots of user interfaces from Cohen's (n.d.) article, Brainscape’s Confidence-based Repetition
Methodology. The student receives the prompt, then after tapping the virtual button are asked to express the judgment of learning - how confident they felt that they knew the answer. It keeps the history of responses and can display the history by single or across multiple subjects for each learner.
In a blog post about the benefits of self-assessment, Cohen (2017) addresses three criticisms about self-assessments.
1. How do you know the learner will accurately assess his/her knowledge?
2. How do you know learners won’t avoid thinking about how they feel about the answer and just reveal it?
3. What happens if a learner reports with high confidence their feeling about the answer and is wrong?
In terms of accuracy he says that since this is a self-study application there is no motivation to cheat. His answer to the second question is not strong. He simply states that flash cards are a good tool for when learners are pressed for time and that it's better than multiple-choice and matching questions “from a cognitive standpoint since they merely test recognition rather than engaging active recall” (Cohen, 2017). His response to the third question is that corrections to wrong answers for which learners felt very confident can “yield better retention benefits than if the confidence was never misjudged in the first place" (2017). For his response he refers to Butterfield and Metcalfe's 2006 article, "The Correction of Errors Committed with High Confidence" in Metacognition and Learning.
I wanted to explore in this paper whether student-self assessments are consistent with teacher assessments, and if it is not, what is its value? Studies have shown that inconsistency does exists between teacher and student self-assessments; however, self-assessments are positively correlated with achievement. Results of studies suggest that achievement can be further increased when students have an external criteria to use for self-assessment; especially if they co-created the external criteria, or received training on how to interpret and apply the external criteria. The value of self-assessment, then is not in its reliability or accuracy but in the resulting rise in achievement when it is used; and perhaps it should only be used as formative and not made part of any summative assessment that is tied to grades.
Andrade, H. L. (2019) A critical review of research on student self-assessment. Frontiers in Education. 84. https://doi.org/10.3389/feduc.2019.00087
Andrews, C. (2016, June). Student self-assessment: Teachers’ definitions, reasons, and beliefs. [Thesis]. Indiana University Bloomington. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/318927776_Student_selfassessment_
BookWidgets (n.d.). [Screenshot of an online student self-assessment]. From https://www.bookwidgets.com/play/SCKZLD
Cohen, A. S. (n.d.) Brainscape’s "Confidence-Based Repetition" methodology. https://www.brainscape.com/images/cms/research/Confidence-Based_Repetition.pdf
Cohen, A. S. (2017, April 18). The benefits of self-assessment. https://www.brainscape.com/blog/2010/04/benefits-of-selfassessment/
Jean-Baptiste, K. C. (2019). Differentiated Lesson Plan Rubric.
Jean-Baptiste, K. C., (2020). Students’ self-assessment compared to teachers.’ [Video].
JFF. (2013, August 22). Self-assessment: Reflections from students and teachers. [Video]. Youtube.
Kalantis, M. & Cope, B. (n.d.) Assessment. https://newlearningonline.com/learning-by-design/assessment
McMillan, J. H., & Hearn, J. (2008, Fall). Student self-assessment: The key to stronger student motivation and higherachievement. Educational Horizons, 87(1), 40-49. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ815370.pdf
Nonyel, N. P. (2015, June 19). Self-assessment is essential to lifelong learning. Educational theory and practice.
Ross, J. (2006). The reliability, validity, and utility of self-assessment. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation. 11(10). https://pareonline.net/pdf/v11n10.pdf
Webb, S. (n.d.). [Training : Woman looking in the mirror]. [Image with added text]. https://pixabay.com/photos/trainingmuscles-arms-blonde-828726/
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