As 2015 comes to a close, you may find yourself reflecting on the past year. Self-assessment or thinking about what we’ve accomplished or left undone, and what’s led to success or failure, is a process most of us engage in as a closure activity at different times such as at year’s end or after losing the big game.
But, what if we engaged in self-assessment “during the game” so we could alter what we do when we get back on the field and change the outcome?
That’s what educators are asking students to do now—to engage in self-assessment with low-stakes activities during the learning process before they have to demonstrate achievement on high-stakes assessment. As formative assessment, self-assessment helps students shape their learning process to succeed in achieving learning outcomes. It is an essential component of effective personalized learning.
According to educators James McMillan and Jessica Hearn, in Student Self-Assessment: The Key to Stronger Student Motivation and Higher Achievement,
… Self-assessment is… a process by which students 1) monitor and evaluate the quality of their thinking and behavior when learning and 2) identify strategies that improve their understanding and skills…Finally, students must be able to make adjustments to their work prior to graded evaluation.
Engaging in self-assessment and experiencing success with it motivates students to apply themselves and persevere. In a review of studies on the effectiveness of self-assessment, researcher John Ross, University of Toronto, found that student self-assessment consistently “contributes to higher student achievement and improved behavior.”
Self-assessment is associated with varied learning approaches including “growth mindset,” a concept promoted by Carol Dweck, Stanford University. With growth mindset, students understand that exerting greater effort and changing strategies will help them succeed where they have failed.
Self-assessment helps students figure out new learning strategies. Students who develop growth mindset achieve higher levels of learning. In one study, inner-city fourth graders using growth mindset for only one year went from doing poorly to placing first in New York state math exams.
At the college level, B. J. Zimmerman and colleagues taught urban developmental math students to use self-reflection during their course. Students engaging in self-assessment not only achieved 25% higher grades than the control group on a standardized test, but also gained general insights:
Instead of viewing the reception of an academic grade as an end-point of learning, these students learned to view it as an opportunity for further learning.
Self-Assessment in Practice
In Acrobatiq courseware, the self-assessment process mirrors McMillan and Hearn’s definition as a regular activity.
Students engage in self-assessment after completing activities for each topic with targeted feedback so that they can adjust their learning strategies. Then, they have the opportunity to apply their insights to additional exercises on previous topics or new topics before summative assessment.
What makes this type of self-assessment powerful is that it’s ongoing so that students can improve their learning in real time. Self-assessment is a positive process that students can apply to learning throughout their lives.