Self Assessment: why I support it in adult learning

“Self assessment refers to the involvement of students in identifying standards and/or criteria to apply to their work and making judgements about the extent to which they have met these criteria and standards” (Boud, 1991).

In a competitive world of past-faced change, self assessment is critical. We are providing our students a valuable life skill by teaching them how to honestly reflect on the quality of their work. The Art of Evaluation suggests six key reasons (p. 113/14) why self assessment is critical:

  1. It increases people’s openness to learning. They become more aware of their own thinking and are more likely to learn from their mistakes or ask for help.
  2. It develops and sharpens work-related skills by improving their ability to communicate, think critically on their experience and performance.
  3. It fosters responsibility for learning as students can take ownership for their work and monitor their progress. This can be highly motivating.
  4. It fosters greater reliance on internal criteria. They can confidently make a personal decision on what quality work they produce. They can compare themselves to professional standards. They recognize personal values such as integrity, honesty and making a difference.
  5. It increases self-awareness. As learners take responsibility for their learning and competence, it builds self-esteem.
  6. Self assessment enhances a sense of direction. Learners can see how far they’ve come and set a course (confirm or change direction) based on their assessment.

Self assessment must be carefully planned; consequences and stakeholders must be taken in to consideration. It must be balanced with peer and instructor feedback to provide different perspectives.

When planning self assessment, learners should be involved. They will need to be taught how to self assess and examples of assessment should be provided to show them “how to” and provide models of what outstanding work looks like.

The benefits of this process should be clearly explained. Clear guidelines and models must be given to help learners feel comfortable with the process. Self assessment must be tailored to the learners – and will need to be modified based on learner feedback. It shouldn’t be set in stone!

I agree with the point made in The Art of Evaluation that adults we’ve become accustomed to feedback being given to us from someone in authority whether that be a parent, a supervisor, or instructor.

Prior to taking the PIDP program, I was never exposed to the concept of self- assessment. As a result, I was sometimes caught off guard, surprised, or hurt by evaluation. Although uncomfortable at first, I have now learned to honestly assess my learning and justify the grades I assign myself. I truly love, appreciate, and embrace the opportunity to self-assess and plan to incorporate self-assessment techniques in my own teaching practice.

I used to think that self-assessment would be abused and that “greedy students” would just given themselves all “A’s” and the instructor would be helpless and criticized when students took advantage of the opportunity and self-assessment backfired. I viewed it as dangerous practice that was amateur and should be avoided.

Now that I have been educated on the process, tried it and had an opportunity to try it (as a student as instructor) I realize that my view was very, very shortsighted and uninformed. I have had a complete “ah-ha experience” that has truly changed how I will teach and how I will help my students self-assess to reach their full potential and take responsibility for their learning – an opportunity they are already embracing!

After learning about the benefits of self assessment for learners and instructors alike, I will look for ways introduce formal and non-formal self assessment in appropriate contexts to help learners develop and reflect on their skills, learning, and progress.

I also embrace the opportunity for non-formal assessment such as the “quick memo” idea outlined in The Art of Evaluation which suggests having learners write memos during a session. The memos would include: a brief review of the learning, a summary of ideas, a learning opportunity or mistake, a reminder of other perspectives, and a personal response. I also plan to try “getting on the same track” and “moments of awareness” “exercises in both my online and face-to-face classes.

I love the idea of formal self assessment against guidelines and rubrics such as: portfolios, journals, interviews, and contracts but understand that learners will need to help learning how to critique their performance. I will involve the learner in the assessment process out of respect for the role they play in their learning.

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About robincookbondy

My name is Robin Cook Bondy and I live in Ladner, BC with my husband and three sons. I am a communications and public relations professional pursuing further education in the area of adult learning.
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