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November 10, 2007

Hello again,

Self-assessment is a useful tool in that it promotes awareness of the process of learning and encourages students to take...

... responsibility for their progress. Mats Oscarsson [ (1984) Self-Assessment of Foreign Language Skills: A Survey of Research and Development Work. Strasbourg: Council of Europe;
(1997) “Self-Assessment of Foreign and Second Language Proficiency”. In The Encyclopedia of Language and Education, Vol. 7. Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp 175-187; (1998) “Learner Self-Assessment of Language Skills”. IATEFL TEA SIG Newsletter, Nov. 1998.] has offered some clear reasons for self-assessment being helpful in language learning: it promotes learning; it gives learners training in evaluation; it raises students’ and teachers’ awareness of perceived levels of abilities; it encourages learners to evaluate course content; it is motivating; and the use of self-assessment adds to the range of assessment techniques available.

Another important benefit is that students participate in setting criteria and so share that task with the teacher thus helping to ensure that the criteria are appropriate to their aspirations.

Once a teacher has decided to introduce self-assessment, the class needs careful preparation. It needs gradual implementation so that students can build confidence in the techniques and can trust the outcomes. Oscarsson (1984) suggests student progress cards as simple self-assessment tools. These involve a checklist of clearly defined aims. The cards have a column for both the student and teacher to complete. The students can tick each language skill or activity that that are confident of having mastered. The teacher can use the teacher’s column to comment, make suggestions, and finally sign of the aim once satisfied that each student has really achieved it.

Another technique is the use of ability statements. These too can be provided as checklists that range from native speaker competence at the highest level down through to minimal ability at beginner level. Useful examples of these statements can be found as part of the European Language Portfolio: http://www-user.uni-bremen.de/~jsuther/eu_portfolio.html/.

Learners’ diaries are another method by which students keep a brief written record of what they have learnt and how well they have performed. Students can also have their performance recorded on video or audio tape so that they can analyse their achievements afterwards.

I would not claim that self-assessment should replace external evaluation through testing and teachers’ reports but it is has been shown from a decade or so of research that it has a valuable role to play in fostering learner autonomy. It would be good to hear about your experiences in this field.

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  1. Terri Says:

    The school I work for uses "can do" statements for young learners but not adults. At the end of class, or within a class or two of the time a particular ability is addressed the students rate their ability. At the end of the term, the receive their list of ratings which are accompanied by the teacher's ratings in the form of a "report card".

    I would like to test a similar method in my adult courses. A student has to use a skill repeatedly over time before he can see/feel his progress. I don't like the idea of having the student rate himself on the same day an ability is first addressed in class. In your opinion, how often should adult students be encouraged to reflect upon their progress in this fashion?

  1. Brenda Townsend Hall Says:

    I think it is an ideal end-of-week activity.

  1. kriss Says:

    Very good article. I'm a ESL student, and my teacher is teaching us how to assess ourselves xD. Your article helped me to understand better this method. thank you!!

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