BEFORE: What is learner self-assessment?

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What is learner self-assessment and what’s it for?

Self-assessment is a form of assessment where students assess themselves. For our purposes, the focus would include self-assessment of literacy and numeracy skills and practices that underpin your programme or teaching context.

The purpose of learner self-assessment is usually diagnostic, but you can use self-assessment both before and after a unit of learning. If you did that, you’d get diagnostic information in the first assessment and then formative or summative in the second.

If you work with very low-level adult learners, it might be hard or impossible for them to self-assess.

However, if your learners are more capable, self-assessment might be relevant and appropriate. And it can help in a number of ways. For example, self-assessment may help your learners:

  • Understand what the learning outcomes are for your programme or teaching.
  • Work out what they know and can do, and what they still need to learn.
  • Reflect on their learning process so they can work out how they learn best.
  • Act on feedback from you or their peers.
  • See where the gaps are in their own learning and how they can improve.
  • Set goals for themselves in terms of what they want to learn and do.

When you ask learners to self-assess, you’re asking them about their own perception of their reading or maths ability. Learner perceptions are useful data but don’t forget to try and match them up with other data that you already have.

This other assessment data might include what you know about their ability from doing work for you, or from other tools like the TEC Assessment Tool.

Here’s an example of what you might expect:

  • You’re trying to get learners to rate themselves in terms of how confident they are using reading in their daily lives. But you find that some learners rate themselves as better or more competent than they actually are. And others may rate themselves as worse.

This is still a valid self-assessment. But it’s more useful if you can combine it with other data so you can draw more informed conclusions about where they are actually at.

Consider the following learners in these two scenarios:

Self-assessment Other data
Learner A Reports low confidence when it comes to using maths in their daily life Assessment Tool data suggests that they do know basic maths and numeracy to Step 3 in the Learning Progressions.
Learner B Reports high confidence when it comes to using writing in their daily life Supervisor suggests that they avoid any writing-related activities in the workplace by getting others to fill out forms

It’s hard to know what exactly is going on in each scenario. But what is clear is that some further digging is needed:

  • Learner A may have maths anxiety issues that prevent them from using what they actually know or even from extending themselves.
  • Learner B might be dyslexic or have well-developed avoidance strategies to disguise poor writing or reading skills.

Whatever the case, a learner with poor confidence (but who can actually do the work) needs a different approach to a learner with high confidence (who can’t actually do the work).

But it’s impossible to address either unless you start looking for what’s really going on. And this includes diagnostic assessment and learner self-assessment.

In the next section, we’ll give you some examples of learner self-assessments for literacy and numeracy. And we’d like you to try them out with your learners. They’re quick and easy to administer and who knows, you might find out new information about your learners.

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

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