Larry Ferlazzo: Strategies for self assessment

We all assess our students, and we have many strategies to use (see Assessing English Language Learners). In addition to teacher assessment, though, student self-assessment provides additional learning opportunities.

Carol Dweck, the psychologist well-known for her work on a growth mindset suggests that creating opportunities for students to clearly see for themselves the growth in their own knowledge can help give them a "clear sense of progress," and self-assessment can an effective strategy to achieve that end.

Here is a short list of specific student self-assessment methods:


Prior to beginning thematic units, a “Word Splash” (a list of key vocabulary) is shown to students. Students have to mark whether they know what the word means, they've heard of the word and might know its meaning, or they don't know it.  The teacher collects the sheet.  At the end of the unit, the teacher provides a new copy of the list for students to mark their levels of comprehension.  After they are completed, they receive the first version and compare the two to assess their progress.


At the beginning of a unit, students might be asked to write everything they know about the topic they will be studying –  Food, Health, Jamaica, Natural Disasters, Nelson Mandela, etc. The teacher collects the list, and then returns them at the end of the unit for students to see how little they knew a few weeks earlier compared to how much they know at that time.


Another self-assessment strategy is to have students save writing samples during the course of the year, including one done right at the beginning of the term, and then have students assess them using an “Improvement Rubric.”


Having students set goals - with teacher support and guidance about what might or might not be realistic -  and regularly evaluate their progress towards achieving them (as well as making adjustments) as another self-assessment strategy.  I've discussed specific goal-setting lessons at a previous British Council post, Increasing Motivation Through Students Setting Goals.


Here are several versions of forms I have my students use to determine their  semester grades.  There are ones for both Intermediate and Advanced English Language Learners.  Eighty percent of the time I agree with the student-determined grade.  Ten percent of the time I increase it.  The remaining ten percent, I think, over-estimate the grade they have earned, and we then have a conference about it where students can "make their case." I am sometimes convinced but, more often, after making their case, students conclude themselves that they deserve a lower one.

Student self-assessment can be a powerful tool for developing student self-confidence and agency.  But it is not a method of creating less work for the teacher.  On the contrary, the guidance and support required to make it successful takes more teacher time than just inputting a grade into the computer. 

I think it's worth it.

Average: 5 (6 votes)

Research and insight

Browse fascinating case studies, research papers, publications and books by researchers and ELT experts from around the world.

See our publications, research and insight