The Importance of Student Self Assessment

In his book, Embedded Formative Assessment, Dylan Wiliam highlighted five core strategies that should be part of any successful formative assessment practice in the classroom. Two of those core strategies involve student self-regulation and self assessment. Here are those strategies Dylan provides:

  1. The importance of students self assessmentClarifying, sharing, and understanding learning intentions and criteria for success– getting the students to really understand what their classroom experience will be and how their success will be measured.
  2. Engineering effective classroom discussions, activities, and learning tasks that elicit evidence of learning– developing effective classroom instructional strategies that allow for the measurement of success.
  3. Providing feedback that moves learning forward– working with students to provide them the information they need to better understand problems and solutions.
  4. Activating learners as instructional resources for one another– getting students involved with each other in discussions and working groups can help improve student learning.
  5. Activating learners as owners of their learning– self-regulation of learning leads to student performance improvement.

It’s numbers four and five above that I want to focus on today. Teachers need to empower their students and give them a leading role in their own education. It’s no doubt that most students are their own biggest critics and that’s okay; focusing that lens that can have fantastic results. By engaging in the process of thinking about and assessing their own work, they act on the evidence of their own learning and take responsibility for it.

In 1996, Fernandes and Fontana – two highly-respected education researchers out of Portugal – established a training program of self assessment strategies with 25 primary school teachers. Over a period of eight months, the teachers implemented these strategies within their classrooms. Students in these classrooms were compared to students in the classrooms of 20 control teachers. The results showed that students who are provided with regular opportunities and encouragement to engage in self assessment are more likely to attribute their learning to internal beliefs (i.e. students believe they can have an impact on their own learning). These students were less likely to attribute success to luck or other unknown variables and were more likely to understand the real causes of their academic success, such as learning, effort and studying. (Changes in the control beliefs in Portuguese primary school pupils as a consequence of the employment of self assessment strategies. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 66, 301–313)

Student Self AssessmentStudents who engage in these activities are more likely to develop internal attributions, a feeling of empowerment, and a sense of autonomy. These are the same attributes that empower us as adults in our own work, so it does make sense that it would do the same to students in a classroom.

In another study conducted in 2004, by Brookhart, Andolia, Zusa, and Furman (Minute Math: An action research study of student self assessment. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 57, 213–227) examined the impact of student self-monitoring. Students were provided with structures and tools (logs, graphs, reflection sheets, etc.) to reflect each week on the success of their study and problem-solving strategies. An analysis of student reflection sheets showed that when teachers involved their students in monitoring their own progress, students were more autonomous and were able to accurately predict their performance on timed tests. Overall, the students in this study enjoyed participating in self assessment and liked seeing their progress. Student comments on their reflection sheets also acknowledged the value of their own studying – something teachers can measure themselves with formative assessment techniques such as Exit Tickets.

How are you empowering your students to self-assess or self-monitor their progress? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page or send us a message via Twitter (@NWEA). We’d love to hear from you!


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