Student Self-Assessment: The Key to Stronger Student Motivation and Higher Achievement

general article writing


Student Self-Assessment:

The Key to Stronger Student Motivation

and Higher Achievement

by James H. McMillan and Jessica Hearn

the current era of standards-based education, student self-assessment stands alone in its promise of improved student motivation and

engagement, and learning. Correctly implemented, student self-

assessment can promote intrinsic motivation, internally controlled

effort, a mastery goal orientation, and more meaningful learning. Its powerful impact on student performance—in both classroom assessments

and large-scale accountability assessments—empowers students to

guide their own learning and internalize the criteria for judging success.

In this article, we will define student self-assessment and its importance

in influencing student motivation and learning. We begin with a detailed

definition of self-assessment, then review pertinent theoretical and

research literature that supports the positive impact of student self-

assessment in the classroom. Our intent is to show that, based on both

theoretical and applied research and theory, self-assessment works, and

that by applying a set of practical steps teachers can facilitate this kind

of assessment and reap the benefits.

What Is Student Self-Assessment?

Self-assessment could mean that students simply check off answers

on a multiple-choice test and grade themselves, but it involves much more

than that. Self-assessment is more accurately defined as a process by

which students 1) monitor and evaluate the quality of their thinking and

behavior when learning and 2) identify strategies that improve their

understanding and skills. That is, self-assessment occurs when students

judge their own work to improve performance as they identify discrepancies between current and desired performance. This aspect of self-

assessment aligns closely with standards-based education, which provides

clear targets and criteria that can facilitate student self-assessment. The


the pervasiveness of standards-based instruction provides an ideal context in

which these clear-cut benchmarks for performance and criteria for evaluating student products, when internalized by students, provide the

knowledge needed for self-assessment. Finally, self-assessment identifies

further learning targets and instructional strategies (correctives) students

can apply to improve achievement.

Thus, self-assessment is conceptualized here as the combination of

three components related in a cyclical, ongoing process: self-monitoring,

self-evaluation, and identification and implementation of instructional

correctives as needed (see Figure 1). Essentially, students identify their

learning and performance strategies, provide feedback to themselves

based on well-understood standards and criteria, and determine the next

steps or plans to enhance their performance.

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