Pedagogy Market Research | Review #7


Student Self-Assessment: The Key to Stronger Student Motivation and Higher Achievement
By James H. McMillan and Jessica Hearn

Review Summary by Diya Jaishankar
Grade XI Student, Market Research Intern, Adaptive Instruction

Diya Jaishankar is a eleventh grade student in Bangalore. She is curious and observant and enjoys playing the piano, watching crime shows, solving puzzles and chatting with her friends.

This is a summary of a published paper by Professor of Education at VCU (Victoria Commonwealth University), James McMillan and Research Associate at VCU, Jessica Hearn. This paper explains the importance and usage of Student Self-Assessment using relevant theory and applied research. It also states that Self-Assessment promotes motivation to achieve learning goals and guidance for self-learning by developing criteria to judge student achievement. The paper details what Self-Assessment is, the steps involved in this process, the relevant theory that supports it, and the implications for its practice.

What is it?

Student self-assessment is the process of observing and assessing the quality of one’s behaviour and thinking while learning and identifying the respective strategies to ameliorate comprehension and skills. It must involve the comparison and identification of any variations in the student’s performance against the desired performance, by the student, with the goal of improved student achievement. It is especially useful in the standards-based education system, as it facilitates student self-assessment and student achievement due to clearly specified standards of student achievement.

The Self-Assessment Process

  1. Self-monitoring – voluntarily paying attention to the thinking/behaviour while learning in connection to external standards
  2. Self-judgement – ability of students to identify their standard, or progress towards desired performance based on current performance. It also promotes self-confidence, self-reliance and improved performance on difficult tasks
  3. Instructional correctives – activities done to correct misunderstandings or further progress to the desired performance functioning to enhance learning and extend learning goals
  4. Formative Assessment – provision of feedback to students during their learning, ameliorating student motivation and achievement

Theory behind Self-Assessment

  1. Cognitive and Constructionist Learning and Motivation theories: States that by Self-assessment, students compartmentalise and instil knowledge and link new information/skills with those present in storage memory producing greater student motivation and confidence.
    Students internalise different types of ability goals
    • Mastery Goal – One where focus is laid on improving knowledge/skills to ensure complete comprehension and mastery using all the steps of self-assessment. Here, progress is periodically checked, and the evaluation is done internally by the student
    • Performance Goal – One where focus is laid on obtaining desired performance with minimal emphasis on legitimate learning of concepts, and the evaluation is done by teachers or a third party
  2. Metacognition: Process that can be taught to students, which involves deliberate self-monitoring, self-evaluation and formative assessment resulting in increased student achievement
  3. Self-efficacy: A student’s estimation of their ability to perform well on a task, involving perception of competence. Students with high expectations are more likely to continue to perform tasks with positive evaluation, encouraging students to expend more effort and resources to higher study in the future. It is also found that students who do well on challenging tasks attribute success to their ability rather than external factors. This helps develop self-efficacy for other tasks

Implications for practice

  1. Clear learning targets and criteria – Students should have clear learning goals and criteria for the desired performance they are aiming for, making self-assessment easier. They can also be allowed to choose from a specific range of activities to individualize instruction. Additionally, rubrics, in the form of levels of proficiency are to be provided for students to understand and internalize the steps required to meet goals
  2. Self-evaluation – Students must evaluate their current performance and adjust, to achieve mastery, with focus on attaining complete knowledge instead of merely completion of the task. To provide for the needs of the student and increase student motivation, goals must be made, strategies must be used, and feedback should be given during the learning process
  3. Reflection – Students think about what they have learnt and identify misunderstandings to adjust their goals resulting in deeper understanding of the material.
    Growth scheme – Teacher should gradually train students to generate criteria for learning and feedback on their application of criteria, and set appropriate learning goals and strategies. Furthermore, depending on the level of schooling, students can create criteria to be applied, and get feedback on the same


From this paper, we understand how important self-assessment is for real understanding of subjects and how teachers or students may apply the techniques involved in this process to effect legitimate, long-lasting learning as opposed to temporary learning. We also see how self-assessment provides motivation to students by giving them a sense of responsibility and ownership, thus giving a boost to student achievement.

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