QUIZ TIME: In general, students completing self-assessment rubrics will evaluate themselves higher or lower than their educator would grade them?
If you are like I was when I first began teaching, you will have chosen “higher”. At that time, I thought: “Why shouldn’t students give themselves the maximum points for each rubric criterion?”
Surprisingly, my roughly 15 years of experience teaching children, teens, and adults has taught me that in general, learners are harder on themselves than I would be.
Why does self-assessment matter?
Regular use of self-assessment rubrics leads to both deeper learning and better performance. In other words, not only do learners internalize the material to a larger degree, they are able to use/show what they have learned more effectively.
However, this depends on the self-assessment tool being valid and constructive for the particular situation.
What does valid mean?
Can the learners evaluate their performances accurately or realistically? If they can, then the self-assessment is valid.
In order for learner evaluations to be accurate and realistic, self-assessments need to have the following characteristics:
- Be specific to the lesson/course, including relevant milestones and goals
- Use keywords and phrases which echo the course content for easy comprehension
- Contain rating methods that allow a wide range of responses (rather than just yes/no/partially, etc.)
- Ask for evaluation in a neutral way (no leading questions)
- Be familiar to the learners
The last two characteristics are particularly important.
Beginning assessment questions with starters such as “Wouldn’t you agree that…” and “Isn’t it fair to say that…” are non-neutral asks. The tendency will be for the assessor to agree, especially if someone “higher up” is going to see the responses—and know who made them.
Stating the evaluation statement in as factual a manner as possible is a neutral ask. It shows support for any answer.
When I first began using self-assessment rubrics, I had to dedicate lesson time to explaining the rubric to my learners AND helping them complete it. At first, it was like a “foreign language” to them. Over time, I found that they could generalize from one rubric to the next, even if the format and/or criteria were slightly different.
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What does constructive mean?
Does the self-assessment promote reflection, including metacognition? If so, then the self-assessment is constructive.
Metacognition is often defined as “thinking about thinking”. In other words, analysing one’s own thought processes. We note what we did well and come to conclusions about what we can do better next time.
The most effective self-assessments allow learners to make changes to their performances after assessment. One example is formal evaluation, self-assessment, re-do of formal evaluation. Another is the preparation of material for formal evaluation, self-assessment, revision of prepared material, formal evaluation.
One type of valid and constructive self-assessment template is a survey.
Surveys are often associated with giving feedback to educators or management. Yet, they suit for self-assessment as well. Let’s look at two examples.
This self-assessment template gives a wide range of easy to choose evaluations. This tool corrects to the closest whole number, so assessors must make a definite choice.
Since this template is part of a Learning Management System (LMS), it is completely customizable. So, for example, you can offer fewer or more evaluation options, change the scale labels (replace the strongly disagree/agree), write whichever evaluation statement you want, and have it in the company color.
This example checks several metrics after an onboarding course. Again, it is completely customisable since it is part of an LMS.
The two metrics we are checking are course topics ( the buddy program, the development meeting, the company pension plan, and remote scheduling) and how important these topics are for the assessor.
Assessors drag each topic to the appropriate quadrant:
- Understand how it works + Relatively important for them
- Understand how it works + Relatively unimportant for them
- Need more information + Relatively important for them
- Need more information + Relatively unimportant for them
The results are as follows:
- For items in category I, the work is done.
- Items in category II don’t need further onboarding, but we might want to check why the assessor has rated them as unimportant.
- Any choices in category III are our top priority.
- Those items in category IV need more attention, but the priority level is low.
NOTICE that in both these examples, the self-assessment gives information to both the learner and management. Often, self-assessment has this dual quality. However, it is also important to have self-assessment which is of value to the assessor alone.
Here’s an example of self-assessment “for assessors only”.
While not intended for self-assessment, this LMS numbers template makes an interesting tool.
Let’s say that your learners need to prepare a presentation. You can create a series of these number dials to help them assess their presentations before they present them—sort of a dynamic checklist.
In this case, the choices are 0%, 7%, 19%, 37%, 53% and 100% (under the Touch to rotate label). The amount can be completely customized, but the real purpose is to focus the learner’s attention on the appropriateness of their presentation content (or whatever the criterion is).
My “go one step further” challenge
In the last few years of my teaching, I have been working with students of all ages to create their own self-assessment rubrics. Our process begins by brainstorming possible criteria which would assess their task in a valid and constructive way. Then, students choose from the criteria to create their grading rubric. Each rubric criterion has two evaluation columns: theirs and mine. Their final grade is the average of the two assessments.
In general, I find that my learners perform best on these tasks. Although the rubrics created are complex and demanding, I believe it is the familiarity with the requirements which allows the learners to perform better.
I challenge you to explore this use of self-assessment in your own teaching and training.
In no time at all
One complaint I hear a lot from educators and trainers is: “We would use self-assessment more, but we don’t have time to create these tools.”
As far as I am concerned, this has become an excuse.
I created all the examples above using templates from an LMS. Each one took me roughly 1 minute. So, if you have 5 minutes, you can create a 5-point, self-assessment rubric.
Let’s be honest…who can’t find 5 minutes to create such a useful tool that you can use over and over?