Why Students Practice Self- and Peer-Assessments
A Simple Rationale for Self-assessment
When you practice self-assessment, YOU learn more about your own learning needs AND you provide valuable insights to help me understand how to assist your learning. The critical evaluation of your own academic work--it's called metacognition--is a key skill of successful students [details below.]
"More significant [and wrong] is the assumption that it’s the teacher’s job to correct errors. Students are the ones who made those errors. They stand to learn more from their mistakes if they’re the ones who do the correcting, using teacher feedback to help them identify and fix the mistakes." Maryellen Weimer, PhD, The Power of Language to Influence Thought and Action June 24, 2015
Self-assessment is one part of increasing one's metacognition
Metacognition is thinking about your own learning, monitoring how you learn, and revising/improving cognitive strategies based on past experience. Vanderbilt University has some good advice on implementing student metacognition. Steps in Metacognition (the self-assessment process) might include the following:
- Work to understand how YOUR brain learns--be self-reflective.
- Develop awareness of how you prefer to approach [and avoid] learning tasks. Maximize strengths; improve weaknesses.
- Honestly monitor and assess learning/study strategies you use and their effectiveness.
- Adjust strategies when appropriate to increase and improve learning.
- Self-consciously apply, analyze, and manage new understandings about your learning with the goal of improving long-term performance and retention.
- Strive to move from the state of learning dependency (waiting for an expert to give you the right answer) to learning autonomy (figuring things out for yourself).
The Importance of Student Self-assessment
Successful students learn to self-assess, as educational researchers have found in repeated studies [see below]. It works! Students move from being dependent students,
always requiring external prompts and guidance, to independent thinkers who can honestly and
critically evaluate their own work against explicit standards and thus improve performance. In HI 216 you are not just getting some facts about Latin American history (info transfer), you are practicing essential cognitive skills to become mature, higher-level critical and creative thinkers. These are vital life-long learning skills for school and professional success.
A 2008 metastudy of educational practices found student self-assessment the number one factor in improving student learning [John Hattie, Visible Education].
Richard Paul & Linda Elder, Foundation for Critical Thinking, remind instructors "don't be a mother robin--chewing up the text for the students and putting it into their beaks through lecture. Teach them instead how to read the text for themselves, actively and analytically. Focus, in other words, on how to read the text not on "reading the text for them."
Self-assessment is also fundamental to Universal Design for Learning, developed by CAST (2011), Center for Applied Special Technology. "UDL Checkpoint 9.3 - Develop self-assessment and reflection: In order to develop better capacity for self-regulation, learners need to learn to monitor their emotions and reactivity carefully and accurately. Individuals differ considerably in their capability and propensity for metacognition, and some learners will need a great deal of explicit instruction and modeling in order to learn how to do this successfully. For many learners, merely recognizing that they are making progress toward greater independence is highly motivating."
Why do we use this procedure?
Macro-view: Self assessment is an essential real-world work skill. Once you're on the job, a supervisor does not stand over you coaching every move, informing every decision, and providing constant micro-feedback on your every move. YOU must be proactive, self-correcting, and capable of independent action. Dependent learners become dependent employees who become unemployed. So start NOW in the invaluable process of evaluating and improving your own performance.
Course-View: Your self-assessment gives me clear insights into what you understand and do not understand about the process of historical analysis and interpretation. Learning to think historically is not a simple matter of "show me how to jump through hoops." It's a matter of reasoned practice and intellectual diligence. Since we do not have have the luxury of face-to-face discussions where we can dialogue, I must rely on what you write to me about your work. Otherwise, I'm merely guessing at what you do or do not understand--not a very productive means of teaching or learning.
Cognitive view: Finally, there is a strong, healthy interaction between peer assessment and self assessment, and you need practice at both. Becoming more self-aware and self-critical will improve your performance in any course. "The ability to self-assess accurately and constructively judge the work of peers is an essential learning skill that teachers have the responsibility to develop during their students' college years." Maryellen Weimer, Learner-Centered Teaching (2002, p. xix)
In sum, "critical thinking is the art of taking control of one's thinking. As such it means
continually bringing thinking to the conscious level, followed by assessing it for quality,
identifying its flaws, and then reconstructing it. Critical thinking is, in short, self-directed, self-
disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking. It presupposes assent to rigorous
standards of excellence and mindful command of their use/" [Taken from Richard Paul and
Linda Elder, The Miniature Guide to Critical Thinking Concepts and Tools, Foundation for
Critical Thinking Press, 2008].
Use peer assessment to improve your learning
Read critically the discussions posted by other students [peer assessment]. As you read, compare their approach & work with your own. By searching out best practices in others, you'll see ways to improve your own future work. Emulate those practices in your future essays. Prof. Slatta also posts model paragraphs linked from the class news page for your critical review and study. Good students learn from one another and help teach one another. Honest assessment of your own work in comparison to that of your peers is a key to better academic performance in any field.
Though metacognition, students can change their paradigm of learning to:
High-performing students engage in metacognitive activities, monitoring and adjusting their learning strategies. Be a self-aware learner to help you discover what methods you brain prefers to use and process information. Take note of what strategies you use and evaluate which ones seem to bring you the most success and which ones don't seem to work. Change your study methods based on what you observe. Learning how you come to understand something is more important what knowledge you accumulate. Adapted from LSU Center for Academic Success
- refocus the emphasis from study skills to learning strategies
- focus on learning instead of grades [move from memorizing for a test to in-depth understanding]
- develop a mindset that intelligence can be developed through one's own actions and strategies even if you fail at first! (Dweck, 2006).
- apply what one learns about one's own learning to future learning
Need more convincing about the importance of self-assessment?
Practice at self-assessment encourages us to become self-correcting learners, not passive ciphers
awaiting orders on "what hoop do I jump through next?" You're already skilled at hoop-jumping,
or you would not have been admitted to NCSU. So let's move beyond high-school skills and
activities. Otherwise what are you paying for?
"Self-assessment refers to the involvement of learners in making judgments about their own
learning, particularly about their achievements and the outcomes of their learning. Self-assessment is formative in that it contributes to the learning process and assists learners to direct
their energies to areas for improvement." "The term is used to encompass the two key elements
in any assessment decision: the identification of criteria or standards to be applied to one's work,
and the making of judgments about the extent to which work meets these criteria." (Boud and
Falchikov 1989) Like any skill, it takes practice, hence my course requirements.
" Self-assessment "encourages students to become self-conscious about their own development
and progress rather than receivers of preordained judgments from external sources. We are
convinced that the quality of the written work has improved in previous years and that this can
be attributed in large part to the process of self-assessment." (Denscombe and Robins 1980) In
this sense, self-assessment promotes student empowerment and self-actualization.
Self-assessment encourages the process of intellectual maturation. "Recent years have seen an
increase in interest in the ways in which students may be encouraged to take more responsibility
for their own learning. Life-long learning requires that individuals be able not only to work
independently, but also to assess their own performance and progress. Self-assessment may be
regarded as a skill and, as such, needs to be developed." (Falchikov and Boud 1989)
Self-assessment also encourages students to take control of their own learning, leaving behind learning dependency. "Students who believe that they have control over their learning are more likely be be more actively engaged in their academic work and work harder, achieving higher grades."(Pintrich, 2003, quoted in Blumberg, Developing Learner-Centered Teaching, 2009, p. 15)
Research over the past three decades points to a correlation between increasing student abilities
at self-assessment and improving performance across a wide range of disciplines. A class that
merely asks you to jump through hoops teaches you little and certainly cannot enhance critical
thinking skills. So use this opportunity not only to learn about history but to develop important,
useful lifelong learning skills. "Student self-assessment provided a significant new dimension to
the predictability of actual performance independent of and supplemental to traditional data
sources." (Trepagnier 2004)
Here's a good bibliography of the scholarship on metacognition compiled by NC State's John Nietfeld, Associate Professor of Educational Psychology