Student Self-Assessment

James H. McMillan and Jessica Hearn defined student self-assessment as a process by which (1) students themselves monitor and judge the quality of their own performance and their learning habits. Also (2) students themselves identify gaps in their understanding and skills and propose ways to fill those gaps. If doing properly, student self-assessment is important not only in an assessment process but also in a learning process. Why is that?

  • Students know best about their own weakness and their knowledge and skill gaps.
  • Students know best about their capability to set up realistic goals.
  • Students know best about their learning style and habit, therefore they can best manage their time, speed, and method to complete their targets.
  • Students can best track their learning progress.

Fig.1 of James H. McMillan and Jessica Hearn showed the cycle of student self-assessment process. They are more responsible for setting their learning targets, working to achieve the targets, monitoring their progress, modifying their strategies, and finally adjusting their original targets or setting up new targets.

I think the self-assessment method gives students all factors (autonomy, mastery, and purpose) according to Dan Pink leading to better performance and personal satisfaction.

In order to facilitate self-assessment in an effective way, teachers play an important role. In particular, teachers should set up clear expectations, provide assessment criteria, show students how to judge their performance based on provided criteria, provide them feedbacks, and give them the chance to practice self-assessment.

By doing it properly, student self-assessment can enhance student motivation and achievement. More important, it is a critical skill that students can use beyond the classroom scale as a life-long learner.


McMillan, J.H. and J. Hearn. (2008). Student self-assessment: the key to stronger student motivation and higher achievement.

6 thoughts on “Student Self-Assessment

  1. Jake Keyel

    I like the idea of student self assessment. Particularly if it came at multiple times throughout a semester. For example, if students self assessed at mid term it would give the instructor direction on where to focus lessons for the second half of the semester. This would be particularly true if multiple students listed the same topics/concepts as weaknesses.

  2. Nicole Quinn

    Self-assessment is a good idea. I think it would help students measure their own progress in a way that traditional, top-down assessments do not. It would encourage them to be more mindful of the process itself (hopefully!). It’s another way to get away from the “sage on the stage” model of education.

  3. Kyriakos Tsoukalas

    Self-assessment seems good for learning due to increasing engagement and self-motivation, but not so for accreditation, because we don’t find it trustworthy enough. Nevertheless, there are training situations, that learning needs be accredited, such as in teaching medical professions.

  4. Alex Noble

    There is a lot of value in self-assessment, but it requires a lot of introspection and some students are never satisfied with their work, others are too comfortable with their work. However, I like the idea of a three-way assessment consisting of a peer, self, and instructor/facilitator feedback. Peer assessment has the potential for loads of insight and would encourage us to learn from one another rather than from the instructor, as Nicole mentioned in her comment. This model would ensure that learning objectives are being met and no one is suffering from delusions of grandeur or imposter syndrome to address Kyriakos’ concerns about accreditation. ::shakes fist at accreditation::

  5. Iris

    I absolutely agree with the idea of self-assessment! As a student, I always know when I have acquired knowledge from a class or not. In the same way, I know when I just passed through activities required for a class, without giving it a lot of thought or learning something from it. If students could be given the opportunity to self-assess their work after a class, they will be forced to learn a thing or two from the class or at least, go through the objectives of the class and endeavor to achieve a goal.

  6. Khang Pham

    I think that student self-assessment is a great idea to be use in addition to the traditional grading system. I know that by letting the student self-reflect on their performance they gain a valuable skill set of understanding their strengths and weaknesses. However, most of the students will just give themselves 100’s if that was the only grading method. I know that is what I did when I was told to self-assess. We live in a competitive world, and if given the power most will do whatever it takes to have a competitive “score.”

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