Self-Assessment: A Vital Tool To Improve Learning

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We are all familiar with examinations that are written at the end of the term or year for purposes of grading, which are called summative tests or assessment of learning. We are also familiar with classroom tests that are written during the course of learning. These are formative tests or assessment for learning. The two types of tests serve different purposes. One cannot substitute the other.

Assessment is no longer the prerogative of the teacher and the school alone. Nowadays, learners can also self-assess and/or assess each other as a way of enhancing learning. This kind of assessment is called assessment as learning.

This is the most important assessment. In this kind of assessment, learners are their own assessors.  They monitor their own learning, ask questions and use a range of strategies to decide what they know and can do, and how to use assessment for new learning.

Self-assessment is important considering that learners learn at different rates and they use different styles to learn. This does not apply only to learners, but to grown-ups too. They don’t comprehend things the same way and at the same time.

For some, it takes more to explain, yet that does not mean that those who got it the first time are more intelligent. Learners too learn in this way, and this is tied to their development rates. For example, children learn how to walk at a different rate to one another, with some learning to walk at nine months old, whilst others at twelve months old and some at eighteen months old.

Meaningful learning requires learners to interact confidently with learning experiences as well as each other. They want a learning episode to occur. During this interaction, they discuss and reason to each other. And in the process, there is no right or wrong answer depending on the view point presented.

Learners construct their own knowledge given what is already known. They are then assessed on the basis of the knowledge they have created, but not on regurgitating what is already known. Knowing how to effectively implement and use the information from a self and/or peer-assessment is a learned skill.

During the process of self-and peer assessment, learners judge themselves against established success criteria to better understand their areas of strength, and what they can focus on to improve their learning. The role of the teacher is therefore to formulate clear success criteria, in a learner-friendly language, to use to assess their own learning.

Through this process learners are able to learn about themselves as learners and become aware of how they learn. With self- and peer assessment, learners take more responsibility for their own.

However, by simply having learners periodically complete a self and/or peer-assessment will not yield the desired impacts on learning. Nor will it lead to any worthwhile experiences for learners. To maximize the benefits that assessment as learning can have on learner achievement, it should occur throughout the learning process and the teacher should use the information generated to give feedback to learners. Therefore, facilitating a self and/or peer-assessment only at the end of the learning process would likely give little support to learners and would have an insignificant impact on their learning.

Assessment as learning as a new tool to learning is not easy to implement. It requires well trained teachers in assessment to guide leaners on its use, otherwise the intended outcomes will never be realised. The use of self- and peer assessment gradually leads to improvement by all learners culminating in achievement for all.

Yes, it’s Possible!

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