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To What Extent Is Self-assessment Used Effectively at GCSE Level to Improve Student Attainment?

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Published: 16th Dec 2019

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To what extent is self-assessment used effectively at GCSE level to improve student attainment? Findings from a GCSE English classroom.

Abstract: The aim of this paper is to assess the effectiveness and benefits of self-assessment in the confines of male-only GCSE English classroom. The paper will draw on evidence from literature on the topic, with particular reference to Black and Wiliam, to see if this correlates to the reality of self-assessment in the classroom. It will also explore the difficulties in measuring ‘effectiveness’ and the problems that are inherent in that process. The paper ends with a discussion of the importance of equipping both teachers and students with the necessary skills and tools needed for rigorous peer and self-assessment.


An integral part of informing any teacher’s practice is assessment, however, the obsession with grade driven outcomes has led to questions about the validity and nature of assessments. According to the DfES  “assessment …should not determine what is to be taught and learned. It should be the servant, not the master of the curriculum…it should be an integral part of the educational process.” (Davison & Dowson, 2003) This point is particularly interesting one given the recent changes to assessment that the GCSE curriculum has undergone.

Assessment is carried out for several reasons; the most important however must be formative assessment for learning. The purpose and function of formative assessment throughout the key stages is important in enabling students to progress to the next step in their learning. In KS2, students are assessed by their teachers in Years 3 to 6 and these results do not need to be reported nationally. However, KS3 relies upon regular teacher assessment to ensure that students are in the correct set. According to the TES, by the time students reach KS4 their “levels of happiness [have] decline[d] steadily, reaching a nadir of school misery in Year 10.” (Bloom, 2007). Moreover, Harlen and Crick (2002) argue that if the focus is solely on summative assessment then this can be detrimental to children’s’ progress, as students become afraid to take risks and experiment due to fear of failing. This is particularly apt when it comes to creative writing and encouraging students to think imaginatively. How as teachers can we prevent this from happening? Black and Wiliam, proposed that “what is really needed is for the government to change policy to make a more welcoming environment for formative assessment to flourish.”  (Black et. al., 2003, p 123).

Assessment is an unavoidable as  “attainment tests tell you what a child knows, understands and can do at a particular point in time, however they are not necessarily reliable predictors of future attainment” (Capel, Leask, & Turner, 2005, p. 194) Kyriacou argues that an “active probing of progress and attainment” (Kyriacou, 2001, p. 25) needs to be happening within lessons. Through careful questioning, differentiated tasks and well-thought-out peer and self-assessment this careful probing can lead to an increase in student autonomy. Moreover, encouraging students “to become involved in target setting and self-assessment” (Pollard, 2005, p. 379) will help students feel included and motivated if they have some concept of where they are going and what they can do to get there.

Types of Assessment

There are two types of assessment that are useful to teachers when adapting and planning lessons for their classes. Summative assessment is used for evaluating what information the student has gained after a unit or scheme of work, to draw conclusions about their learning. It takes many forms, including tests in spelling, comprehension or writing tasks. This disadvantage of this type of assessment is that it does not allow for intervention or for teaching to be adapted to the needs of the pupil, instead it gives concrete piece of data to be analysed and colour-coded in a spreadsheet. Whereas the second type of assessment is formative, in which the teacher assesses the students’ learning and gives feedback to the students. This fosters an environment of constant trial and error and gives students the confidence to take risks with their writing as the fear of failure has been removed. Self-assessment is an important part of formative assessment and can help all students identify areas of weakness and success.

An Overview of Assessment Practices

The definition of assessment is subjective as there are many terms, reinvented or recycled, used to describe the different forms assessment takes. What can be established is that assessment in secondary schools has moved away slightly from the solely high-stakes, end of unit or end of year test that is the only measurement of a student’s progress and achievement to a more holistic and formative approach. Assessment has previously been labelled by Scriven (1967) as ‘formative evaluation’. It was Bloom (1969) who attempted to transfer the term formative from evaluation to assessment. Bloom’s research highlighted that the teacher with a single student was able to make much greater progress because he could tailor his approach to best fit the individual needs of the student (Bloom, 1984). This was the beginnings of AfL as assessment began to be seen as an approach that could be constant and ongoing rather than an end point to reach, thus giving students the opportunity to improve throughout.  InsideThe Black Box (Black and Wiliam, 1998) created the desire to alter perceptions on assessment and it the methods used to measure the successes of those assessments. Wiliam (2014) states that debates about assessment have been ongoing for over the past fifty years and perhaps the biggest change in recent years has been ‘Assessment for learning’ (AfL) which was defined by Wiliam (2009) as the ‘use of evidence of student learning to adapt teaching and learning, or instruction, to meet student needs’. This policy was found in every school and taught on every teacher training school and was heralded as the much needed reform to the education system; a move away from the traditional, exam-based, hoop-jumping to real skills-based assessment to help students progress.

Wyse and Torrance (2009) propose that teachers prefer “implicit assessment” and this has similarly been echoed with the interest in ‘low-stakes’ diagnostic testing, especially when it comes to memorising quotations which student now have to undergo for the new specification. Yet this goes against the reality of assessment in many classrooms across the UK. Self and peer assessment are often completed poorly due to lack of training or insufficient time and guidance given to the students. A clear example of assessment not being fully utilised is when the National Curriculum levels were removed without any replacement.  My current school did not want to use a simplified version of English concepts for the students, nor did it wish to move goal posts to be too challenging. The English department therefore decided on descriptors for writing, reading and speaking and listening (S&L), which it based on the Assessment Foci (AFs) from the old NC levels. This was trialled on a group of  year nine students, ranging from 4b to 6c (old NC levels). The students were accustomed to the language being used for the new assessment descriptors as it was similar to the levelled descriptors used previously; the main difference was the removal of the labelling of levels. This led initially to some insecurities from the students as they did not know where to place themselves in comparison to their fellow classmates. The levels were replaced with ‘working towards’ (WT), ‘working towards +’ (WT+),  ‘meeting’ (MT), ‘meeting +’ (MT+),  ‘exceeding expectations’ (EE) and ‘exceeding expectations+’ (EE+).  However, by replacing levels with a different labels is not the intended impact of AfL as Wiliam ‘wished he had called AfL ‘responsive teaching’, rather than using the word assessment’. (Christodoulou, 2016)

Evaluating the impact and delivery of Formative assessment:

These recent changes have placed formative assessment at the top of educational initiatives and has been successful in highlighting the importance of experts supporting the role of learning through classroom feedback (Glaser, 1997). The renewed focus on improving learning instead of evaluating attainment has been capture throughout educational institutes (McDonald and Boud, 2003); students have different levels of understanding and acquire knowledge at different rates, which leads schools to recognize a system that focuses on the individual needs of students (Wiliam, 2009, Chappuis and Stiggins, 2002).

This shift from more traditional forms of assessment to an integrated, flexible approach within the classroom leads to students been more motivated and better supported through their learning. The process of improving their skills as reflected in a piece of writing should be an active rather than passive process and self-assessment gives students the ability to take that control. Assessment should be seen as an active process in which the student participates to achieve a worthy goal (Raven, cited by Berlak, 1992, Noonan and Duncan, 2005). In addition, learning through a process of monitoring progress and assessing strengths and weaknesses are the skills needed to succeed in a professional world (Boud, 1990, 2000). Finally, evaluation in this format is linked to effective teacher education (Bloom, 1984) because it involves the integration of knowledge that students know how to lead the next steps necessary to succeed (Ausubel, 1968 cited by Wiliam, 2011), and is required to be provided in a guided framework to impact future performance (Wiener cited by Wiliam, 2011). When the formative evaluation is put into practice, a clear impact on learning has been indicated; Black and Wiliam (1998) found that providing adequate feedback to individual needs led to better performance. In addition, the amendments confirmed the usefulness of the formative evaluation (Crooks, 1988) underlining the substantial positive impact may have when carrying out detailed planning with regards to implementation.

As a result, the role of formative assessment is to promote students as active students in the classroom, which allows for greater interaction between teachers and students than summative methods of assessment.


Defining Self-assessment

Research has defined self-assessment grounded in the use in a classroom setting which has the purpose of monitoring progress and to act as a provisional and on-going feedback to student learning (Gronlund & Cameron, 2004 as cited by Noonan & Duncan, 2005). Boud et al. (2013) broadens this definition to include that it is based on forming judgements about ourselves by assessing whether standards have been met. Moreover, for students to become novices of judgements, students must acquire the responsibility to self-assess (Sadler, 1989). In contrast, Blatchford (1997) suggests the process of self-assessment is based on a judgement of our own achievement in comparison to others. The evident inconsistency of defining self-assessment suggests that the way in which self-assessment is interpreted will affect the implementation of self-assessment within schools and nationwide.

For example, adopting a teaching approach which emphasises the first type of definitions (Sadler, Boud, Gronlund & Cameron) would focus on using activities within a classroom context which encourage students to measure their own progress and to develop an independent understanding of how to improve in relation a set of standards. Alternatively, Blatchford’s (1997) definition provides an approach that is contrary to the principles of self-assessment as implied by Black & Wiliam (1998). Rather than a process which encourages students to take responsibility for their learning, Blachford’s definition involves comparison of attainment to other students. If this approach is adopted within classrooms, it could promote an individualist atmosphere that results in a focus on competition rather than collaboration. As a result, it is important to clarify the definition of self-assessment within institutions to ensure that student learning experiences are maximised.

Further complications of defining self-assessment can arise due to its overlapping qualities with the term self-evaluation. For example, Boud et al. (2013) confirms that the term self-assessment can be used interchangeably with the term self-evaluation. In reference to literature definitions of self-evaluation, the term is extremely similar to self-assessment definitions (Gronlund & Cameron, 2004; Boud, 2013; Sadler, 1989); for example Rolheiser & Ross (2000) as cited by Noonan & Duncan (2005) explain that self-evaluation has the aim of improving work with the use of judgments against set criteria.

Whilst it appears there are no differences, this can create confusion amongst teachers trying to incorporate the new and most effective strategies in the classroom. My interpretation of the term self-evaluation views it as an activity in which students identify strengths and weaknesses, whereas I perceive self-assessment as an activity of using judgements of knowledge against success criteria. My perceptions of these concepts are reflected by Sullivan and Hall’s (1997) definition of self-evaluation; it is a full range of monitoring activities that a student uses to reflect on understanding and progress. Yet, the researchers offer an insightful contribution by suggesting that self-assessment is possibly used as an activity to inform on one’s strengths and weakness; an activity which develops self-evaluation.

It is evident that self-assessment and self-evaluation are not necessarily used in practice in relation to their apparent labels and the purposes of each concept can be difficult to distinguish in classroom activities. As the term self-assessment is interpreted and practiced in a variety of ways, attempting to implement effective self-assessment within schools to enhance student learning can become confusing for practitioners without clear clarification of the aims and purpose of the concept (Boud et al., 2013).



Theory of Implementation of Self-assessment

Despite the definition of self-assessment requiring clarification; research provides clear advice on how it should be integrated into the curriculum for the process to have a positive impact on student learning. Sadler (1989) insists on a cohesive form of planning self-assessment activities within the curriculum. This is echoed by Boud et al. (2013) who stated that self-assessment is something worth striving towards; it is an activity that if to be valued as meaningful then it should have clear inclusion within lessons, as an integral part of daily reflection (Jones, 2015). The principle of having self-assessment as an ordinary aspect within a classroom aids the communication to students that self-assessment is a vital part of learning (Black & Wiliam, 1998). The literature is clear that self-assessment requires sufficient use by teachers so that students are able to develop awareness of its importance. My use of self-assessment at the end of a topic has has led to a lack of belief in the activity by the students as it is not regularly used. The research emphasises that having student belief and support in self-assessment activities is a key factor in determining the success to enhance student learning.

Research also claims that the success of self-assessment is a result of whether students and teachers have developed the assessment criteria together (Sebba, et al., 2008). This increases responsibility for the student and an interactive dialogue between teacher and student, which allows a better understanding of how self-assessment should be used. This is supported by Klenowski (1995, as cited by Sebba et al., 2008) who found the success of self-assessment corresponded with teachers and students collaborating to define how judgements should be made. This research offers advice for teachers to ensure that self-assessment activities are a partnership of teachers and students work rather than teachers prescribing the actions students should take. Currently, in my own practice, I have given students a criteria, discussed it and then encouraged them to assess their work against it. However, the research demonstrates a more effective method to enhance student learning is for teachers to use their expert knowledge of mark scheme criteria and work with students to transfer it into a language they understand.

Whilst the research (Sebba et al, 2008; Jones, 2015; Sadler 1989; Boud et al, 2013) is useful in offering advice, it does not provide specific instructions on how to follow this advice with pressures of a classroom environment. Further questions can still be raised in regards to the best method of introducing students to self-assessment skills, especially when taking a new subject such as Psychology. Rather the research builds on the confusion that teachers already experience when trying to implement an effective self-assessment method. The advice lends itself to be interpreted in different ways and therefore, may not necessarily lead to enhanced student learning in all cases.

Reality of Implementation of Self-Assessment with Schools

Research has identified guidance on how self-assessment should be effectively integrated into the curriculum (Boud et al., 2013; Sadler, 1989; Black & Wiliam, 1998; Sebba et al., 2008; Jones, 2015) but reality suggests that teachers are not comfortable with applying methods of self-assessment in everyday practice (McDonald & Boud, 2013; Black & Harrison, 2001). Consequently, it is important to investigate the genuine use of self-assessment in schools to see if it truly does enhance student learning.

According to Stewart (2012) the principles of formative and self-assessment have not been fully reflected within the educational sector; the true purpose of these activities have been largely misinterpreted by teachers and as a result have shaped the use of self-assessment within schools on a misinformed basis. This inconsistency between how it should be implemented and how it has been implemented may have been a result of government perception being focused on monitoring student progress rather than students being encouraged to take ownership of their learning (Wiliam, as cited by Stewart, 2012). Bangs, as cited by Stewart (2012) states that strategies teachers have used for self-assessment have not had the desired effects on learning; rather the approach encouraged by schools pays attention to recording the process and demonstrating evidence rather than developing appropriate skills.

As a result, this confirms that in some cases the process of self-assessment does not reflect its intended outcomes as reported in literature. The reasons for this appear to be a lack of instructional guidance for teachers which allow them to meet the true purpose of self-assessment whilst enhancing student learning experiences. To fully assess the reality of self-assessment, it is important to consider the frequency and nature of self-assessment being used by teachers to see if this corresponds with Stewart’s (2012) findings.

Noonan and Duncan (2005) examined the implementation of self-assessment and concluded that teachers find self-assessment useful but require further guidance to integrate these assessment strategies into the reality of the classroom. Specifically, results showed that 24% did not use self-assessment, 49% used it a little and 27% used it somewhat. Of the teachers reported using it a little, the view of appropriate use and value of strategies appeared ambivalent, with teachers emphasising their need to constantly monitor students. The 27% of teachers using self-assessment somewhat in their lessons did observe the value of the activity but directed its use for attitude, effort and participation. Similarly 24% of teachers who did not use self-assessment reported it to be an unreliable activity in which students struggle to remain objective. The findings indicate that teachers are hesitant and cautious in how and when they use self-assessment. Consequently, this does not reflect the definitions of self-assessment (Boud et al, 2013; Gronlund & Cameron, 2004 as cited by Noonan & Duncan,2005; Sadler, 1989) and the guidance given by research (Boud et al, 2013; Sadler, 1989; Black & Wiliam, 1998; Sebba et al, 1998; Jones, 2015).

In relation to these findings, I would classify myself along with the 49% who used self-assessment a little; whilst I respect in principal the benefits of self-assessment, implementing these types of activities within the classroom effectively takes time and it is not a skill acquired by students overnight. In addition, the attitudes represented are also apparent within my educational institution; the view of the effectiveness of student’s abilities to self-assess is divided with some teachers keen to emphasise the value and benefits whereas others quick to criticise its reliability. This demonstrates that the frequency of self-assessment varies based on teacher’s beliefs.

The term reliability (the extent to which a method of assessment consistently produces the same results, Moskal & Leydens, 2000, as cited by Jonsson & Svingby, 2007) is a major aspect which influences teachers use of self-assessment. With 24% of teachers doubting the reliability of students’ assessment themselves (Noonan & Duncan, 2005), this is an aspect  I have experienced; witnessing students who are unable to grasp an objective measure of their own work in comparison to a Psychology mark scheme because they consider effort as a factor in their work. Ultimately, the frequency of self-assessment being used in the classroom is affected.

Furthermore, the nature of self-assessment activities was specific to student projects and group presentations (Noonan & Duncan, 2005); which is a small aspect of a subject curriculum so does not truly reflect the purpose of self-assessment as described by literature. This has implications for schools and management; the activities and principles in theory are not being successfully applied to practices within the classroom. It raises a suggestion that teachers are not receiving this information in the form of training sessions that enhance these practices.

Even though there is an evident benefit to student learning with use of self-assessment, it is clear from Noonan and Duncan’s (2005) research that the frequency and nature of self-assessment is dependent on teachers’ beliefs of the activity. As a result, it is important to consider teachers’ views of the challenges of self-assessment to examine how it can be used most effectively to enhance learning.

Teachers Perspectives of Self-Assessment

Teachers view self-assessment as time consuming (Falchikov, 1986, as cited by Hanrahan & Isaacs, 2001) and struggle to teach students how to self-assess effectively (Jones, 2015). Whilst they are aware of the benefits, they are unaware of how to appropriately apply the principles of self-assessment in the classroom (Noonan & Duncan, 2005). Research clarifies that self-assessment can be a demanding journey in which students search for improvement (Boud et al, 2013) and this provides a difficult entity for teachers to mediate and promote this type of assessment within the classroom. Consequently, an operationalization of the role of teachers in self-assessment is required to enable a broader discussion amongst teachers to positively drive the implementation of self-assessment forward (McMillian & Hearn, 2008).

Yet despite literature stressing the prominence of self-assessment within the classroom and its benefits on student learning; teachers remain undecided on its value and effective implementation. McDonald and Boud (2003) reported teachers questioning the effect that self-assessment has on student learning and consequently it is not an activity represented regularly within the classroom, showing that teachers tread carefully when considering the use of self-assessment activities in their lessons (Black & Harrison, 2001). This demonstrates that the extent to which the theory behind self-assessment is applied to classroom practice does not correspond with literature findings.

This discrepancy between the value of self-assessment as found in research and real-life is reflected by my experiences as a teacher. Although the reported benefits are what I ideally would like to strive for, I have struggled to incorporate an effective form of self-assessment into my own teaching of A-level Psychology due to factors such as the pressure of high stakes assessment. Consequently I would like to investigate further the challenges teachers face when implementing self-assessment in practice.

Research suggests that teachers should take more time to ensure that the advice and guidance by research is put into practice; teachers are encouraged to create success criteria with students and in reality this requires amending and clarifying old policies to integrate an effective method of self-assessment into schemes of work (Sebba et al., 2008). This is problematic when teachers are already conducting excess assessments (Harlen & James,1997).  Whilst I am in agreement that self-assessment should not be addition to the curriculum, this requires a lot of planning from teachers as it must be consistent to work. Otherwise if not thoroughly planned and integrated into the main features of a lesson, students may not value it as a developable skill that can improve throughout lessons. From a teacher’s perspective, this requires a vast amount of work and for it to be successful then specific guidance must be given. Jones (2015) identifies the complex relationship between assessment and planning; students are required to be motivated to assess their next steps of learning, and teachers need to plan the process to ensure that this occurs. As a result, it suggests that teachers are the ones to provide the tools to effectively self-assess. Therefore, with an increased workload, it becomes clear why many are sceptical regarding the use of self-assessment.

One reason behind teachers viewing self-assessment as a challenge to implement is the pressure of high stakes assessment; a test which has major impact on students’ lives (Johnson, 2009), such as A-level results affecting which university offers a student a place. As a result, many teachers adopt a measurement driven instruction approach which teaches to the exam (Broadfoot, 1996) in order to avoid embarrassment of poor exam results (Moore, 1994 as cited by Boardman & Woodruff, 2004). According to Boardman and Woodruff (2004), teachers focus their instructional time on preparing students for the examination, and thus lessons can involve 70% of teacher talk (Bracey, 1987, as cited by Broadfoot, 1996). With the trend of teaching to the test becoming widespread within educational institutions (Gilbert, as cited by Marley, 2008), it suggests that the priority is for teacher instruction to focus on examination content suggesting that encouraging students to develop into lifelong learners is not a priority. This contrasts with the principles of self-assessment that require the student to play an active part in assessment (Boud et al., 2013).

It is important to consider that whilst teachers can see the value of self-assessment, they are also aware of the challenges and time that self-assessment can take to implement (Noonan & Duncan, 2005). With limited time available to teach content required to pass examinations, it raises the issue as to whether teachers will include self-assessment as part of teaching activities if it takes time away from the exam. The pressure to focus on the examination also stems from students, with many asking if activities in class are relevant to the exam.

For example, teaching A-level Psychology has a high volume of content required for the exam. As a result, ensuring that this has been completed becomes the focus within my classroom, and self-assessment is not a priority. Furthermore, I have concerns about students grading their work subjectively, interpreting their ability incorrectly so I would prefer to assess their work myself. As a result, it appears that I have a lack of belief in being able to help students develop appropriate self-assessment skills in the limited time that I have to communicate knowledge of content before the exam.

Many teachers are also aware that the current assessment practices are not even having the intended effects on students’ learning (Stewart, 2012). Therefore it is not surprising that some teachers are cautious about sacrificing teaching time to teach the skills of self-assessment if they may not even be useful. With the pressures of high stakes assessment and the demands of self-assessment, it can be said that an approach of teaching to the exam is incompatible with the true purposes of self-assessment. Therefore a decision is required regarding the ethos of assessment; schools must emphasise whether assessment should be a process which encourages lifelong learners and helps them to develop necessary skills or whether it is a process of passing an examination.

Student Perspectives of Self-Assessment

When considering the reality of self-assessment, the reflections of teachers are not the only view to consider. Hanrahan and Isaacs (2001) investigated the views of students; students reported feeling unconfident in relation to judging the standards of their work and as a result felt it was not substantially beneficial to their learning. With students’ complaints of the challenges of self-assessment, teachers may begin to question its use in positively encouraging students, viewing the activity leading students to feel demotivated, something that teachers wish to avoid in the presence of high stakes assessment. This research demonstrates that whilst current student belief is not extremely positive, it is a justification for self-assessment training to take place as it is an aspect that can be modified; students could have frequent training with consistent reference to a mark scheme to build their belief in the activity.

Although students initially may be unable to judge their work objectively as they struggle to separate judgments of their work from their effort (Sullivan & Hallm 1997), with careful guidance provided by teachers it enables them to become more self-assured in their ability to judge their work (Maul & Pain (1995, as cited by Hanrahan & Isaacs, 2001). Guskey (2010 as cited by Guskey 2012) informs that teachers should provide assistance to students to develop the skills necessary to identify errors and provide feedback to themselves based on their judgements. This shows that when fully supported by teachers, students can become competent at self-assessment which contrasts with views of teachers who can be guarded to introduce it due to reasons of incompetency (Noonan & Duncan, 2005). It may be that a teacher’s reluctance to use this sort of exercise is communicated unconsciously to the student, resulting in students demeaning the value of the exercise as it is not supported by the teacher. It is important to train and adjust teacher expectations to consider self-assessment as a developable skill rather than a fixed trait that students should already possess. As a result, this can have a positive impact on student perspectives of self-assessment.

From the research described, the reality indicates that the majority of teachers do not use self-assessment effectively within the classroom. This is because a variety of reasons including the pressure of high stakes assessment, a lack of clarity of the guidance provided and initial perspectives students take regarding self-assessment. For self-assessment to develop past these issues, teachers require further guidance on implementation.

However, much of the research discussed is advisory and does not provide details of the use of formal training in self-assessment in the classroom (McDonald & Boud, 2003). As a result teachers remain unclear how to effectively enhance student learning experiences in using self-assessment so require further information to do so. Training teachers and students with self-assessment is consequently the next step required to ensure its success to impact student learning positively.


These findings have been replicated by McDonald (2009) who demonstrated that male students who received training performed better than those who did not. The males truly valued the training which led to the success of the programme. As well as the ability to self-assess, further positive characteristics began to develop such as decision making and leadership, showing that the benefits to self-assessment training do not limit themselves to judgment against a criteria. The training itself involved simple tasks that encouraged thoughts from the students, to log these thoughts in order to see how ideas develop and to ensure interaction with the content. Rather than teachers demonstrating an expectation that students could automatically complete these activities, the students were given responsibility as well as guidance to share and develop these skills in a safe environment. Teaching the skills of self-assessment did not require the teacher to create any extra resources but rather work in line with current schemes of work. It was explained that the reason the training increased student learning was because of  “the myriad of inherent processes that forced males in particular to actively listen and assertively communicate with peers, disagree at times and finally arrive at consensus in identifying standards that apply to their wok and that facilitate improved academic performance” (McDonald, 2009 p. 145).

The research whilst still limited indicates that formal training for self-assessment can help to transform teachers’ attitudes about students so rather than viewing them as having an inability to self-assess, they can be viewed as inexperienced requiring encouragement and reassurance to self-assess. This is a step forward to help bridge the gap between the current reality of self-assessment and the benefits of self-assessment reported by literature. Yet there still remains further discussion of how teachers can account for self-assessment when measurement driven instruction approaches are becoming more widespread.



Even though there is a wealth of research on self-assessment it is still difficult to determine and measure how truly effective self-assessment is. Coupled with additional government changes to curriculum policy self-assessment must break away from being exam criteria driven and focus instead on the skills that the student are taught rather than the marks awarded in exams. How successfully self-assessment is implemented within schools however, is determined by a number of factors:

Negativity: the attitudes of students and teacher alike to self-assessment is usually negative as it is not usually given enough time or guidance to see it through successfully. Teachers can be constrained by time-pressures and wanting to avoid marking a piece of work twice, likewise students can feel unsure about what they are required to do and peer pressure to say something complimentary about your partner’s work can lead to bias. Students need to be taught the necessary skills to make appropriate and fair judgements, perhaps by anonymising work the pressure to impress will be removed.

Subjectivity:  what is self-assessment and whether it is considered useful when sheer curriculum content is already constraint by time.

Lack of embedding in the curriculum: the way self-assessment is embedded can have a huge impact on its effectiveness. If the students feel equipped to carry out self-assessment then the results can be fruitful. Time needs to be given to ensure that these skills are taught from an early age and reiterated at each key stage as different needs comes up.

Lack of teacher training: this links directly to the previous point, if teachers feel empowered to use self-assessment because it is viewed as just as valuable as summative assessment this will directly impact how frequently it is used.

These conclusion have been drawn from observations in an all-male GCSE English group, who for many of the class self-esteem was at a low, therefore judging their own work was just as difficult as judging someone else’s and the students seemed wholly focused on the grade they would get rather than the elements they succeeded in and shown great improvement. It was pertinent to note that with practice, some of the students improved their accuracy and gained in confidence when setting targets for themselves; they no longer needed the suggested EBI sheet or my help. In terms of my teaching practice I did find the need to adapt my planning and explore ways of teaching self-assessment without having to creating too many new resources. Not only is using student-friendly vocabulary is key to making any self-assessment criteria successful, but allowing the students the opportunity to create that criteria themselves and to learn from those mistakes. Time is what makes self-assessment successful; sometimes there just isn’t enough.


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