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Strategies for self assessment
Scris de mihaiela lazar   
Miercuri, 08 Martie 2017 21:15


Anca Lăptucă,

Colegiul Naţional "Mihai Viteazul", Ploieşti

Teacher and student self-assessment as a good educational tool

Self-assessment is probably an activity every thinking individual engages in at times or even at regular intervals. I believe if we teach our students how to gauge their own abilities, we may give them a useful instrument which they will continue to use throughout their life. With younger children, I always praise them for anything that they manage to do correctly, and encourage them to try again if they failed. Surprisingly, children often do not realize that they can cope with any difficult topic until their own abilities are explained to them. Let us look at the issue at hand in more detail.

Teacher Self-Assessment

• You may wish to make a flow chart or a diagram and list your positive and negative sides, your own strengths and weaknesses. For instance I always greet my audience with the same phrase, “I am happy to see you!” There may be a brief pause, but everybody catches up fast and produces the same greeting back to me. It is not enough to simply say it, one has to train oneself, to set the mood and really feel it. If you are sincere, the sentiment you formulate will translate itself into the audience.

• “She knew plenty of teachers who saw children as an annoying by-product of the profession rather than its raison d’etre”(“Case Histories”, a novel by Kate Atkinson). This phrase made me laugh because I know plenty of such teachers. “I wish they all sat still, raised their hands when I ask a question. And only spoke when I allow them to!” complained a first-form teacher. Imagine a group of six-year-olds sitting still for forty minutes. As the old joke goes, if they can do it, there’s something wrong with them; if you can imagine that, something is wrong with you! Check your own attitude. If you see children as a continuous annoyance, maybe teaching is not for you. If you understand that they can be maddening yet you hope to be able to teach them something useful, you definitely will.

• Reflect on any test’s results. Did most of the class manage to do everything correctly, with excellent and good marks? Great! Did they all fail? Then look at your own ways of presenting the material, check their schedule to see which subjects they have before your lesson. It may be that you did not explain the theme in detail; it may also be that they had a strenuous PE class or a text in geometry right before they came to your English lesson. In other words, do not be in a hurry to assign the blame before you learn all the circumstances.

Student self-assessment

• Student self-assessment is a good instrument provided they understand what they are supposed to do. The younger your pupils are the more guidance they may need. “See, you have done the Passive Voice correctly, not a single mistake! Your Present Continuous Tense needs the same kind of work, let us try again”, I told a fifth-grader who was labeled “the class hooligan” since his first year of school. He stared dumbfounded at the test section which had a big 10 at the end, obviously written in my own red pen. I suspect it was his very first good mark ever. Then he whispered, “Is this what you have been trying to get from me, what you have been drilling into us? Like, if I pay attention and grasp that dratted continuous, I may also get 10 for that?” I assured him it looked like a distinct possibility to me. Since that day he worked really hard and eventually became one of my best students; his grades in all the other subjects improved drastically too.

• With teenagers, charts and diagrams are usually a big hit. Be sure to suggest several variants, listing for example Areas of Concern, Areas of Excellence and Areas of Hope. Show interest and accept their suggestions. Share your own chart, or cite examples from your own experience with other (former) classes including adults if you ever taught any. “Many teachers also find this topic difficult” works like magic.

• Peer assessment may be useful if you know your class well and are sure it will not turn into a judgment or a ridicule session. I am rather against it for various reasons. It means double the amount of work for us because we have to be sure that the “corrections” did not compound the mistakes. There are also inherent dangers in the approach.

Self-assessment is a good tool to use for self and students. As any tool, it requires patience and caution.

We all assess our students, and we have many strategies to use. In addition to teacher assessment, though, student self-assessment provides additional learning opportunities.

Carol Dweck, the psychologist well-known for her work on a growth mindset suggests that creating opportunities for students to clearly see for themselves the growth in their own knowledge can help give them a "clear sense of progress," and self-assessment can an effective strategy to achieve that end.

Student self-assessment can be a powerful tool for developing student self-confidence and agency.  But it is not a method of creating less work for the teacher.  On the contrary, the guidance and support required to make it successful takes more teacher time than just inputting a grade into the computer.

I think it's worth it.

Continuous Assessment

In Romanian schools, we are encouraged to assess our students frequently and periodically.

This has several practical advantages; the more grades a student gets throughout the term, the more objective the final evaluation is likely to be. Also, if a student does not do very well in one test, she knows she will be given many other chances to improve her overall score. I believe that this type of continuous assessment motivates students to work systematically and incessantly, which is highly beneficial, especially in an L2 classroom.

My philosophy is that the final grade should be as objective as possible. I suppose that this can be easily achieved if it includes evaluation of various language areas, such as vocabulary and grammar, and skills, i.e. listening, speaking, writing and reading. I find it useful if each of these areas and skills is further dissected into sub-areas and sub-skills during the evaluation process. So when I distribute corrected essays, for example, my students know what the final mark consists of; there is a separate score for vocabulary (which includes categories such as spelling, accuracy, relevance and range), a score for grammar (this is comprised of accuracy and range), and separate scores for cohesion, coherence, content etc. That said, when two students get the same mark, it does not mean that their achievement is identical; each of them has different strengths and struggles with specific areas of the target language.

To assess my students, I use short tests as well as progress tests on a regular basis. Once in a while I also use proficiency tests to discover what their current level is as described by the CEFR (The Common European Framework of Reference). I am aware of the fact that this can be somewhat demotivating for weaker students. However, this approach is a must in my teaching context as upon finishing secondary education, all our students will take a B1-B2 English exam.   That is why they need to know which areas to work on.

Nevertheless, there are students who do their best to succeed, but in the end they often fail to get a decent grade. On that account, I also consider participation and effort when evaluating my students. For example, with young learners, I regularly do project work. The students are asked to write a coherent piece text on a specific topic (a poster, leaflet, comic), which they illustrate, colour, etc. As long as they manage to get the message across, I never subtract points for incorrect use of grammar or vocabulary. My main criterion is the effort they put into their work. This is highly motivating and enables weaker students to improve their existing score.

To conclude, I believe that assessment should not be used to threaten or discourage students. On the contrary, it should motivate them to improve their language abilities and to make visible progress. Through continuous assessment, the teacher can highlight students' strengths as well as help them work on their current weaknesses and problems.


1. Benson, P and Voller, P (eds) 1997. Autonomz and Independence in Language Learning (Applied Linguistics and Language Study). Longman

2.  Boud, D. (1995). Enhancing learning through self assessment. London: Kogan Page

3.  Harmer, J. (2007). The Practice of English Language Teaching. Pearson Longman

4. Kirby, N.F & Downs, C.T. (2007). Self-assessment and the disadvantaged student; Potential for encouraging self-regulated learning? 32(4), 475- 494.

Ultima actualizare în Luni, 20 Martie 2017 21:59

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