How do I get started with self-assessment?

A student working on the bench outside the Palmer BuildingIt's important that your students recognise the importance of the skills that self-assessment activities are likely to develop. The introduction of self-assessment to a course should ideally be in the context of the entire degree programme, rather than simply being 'tacked-on'1. The Assessment Audit Tool (PDF 190KB) [links to external site] from the Higher Education Academy's UK Centre for Bioscience is a useful starting point for you to check how and where you might consider adopting self-assessment methods within your module(s).

Where possible it's a good idea to introduce self-assessment early on in a programme; student's perceptions of the nature of their assessment will effect their approach, so if they feel that the assessment for a particular module will measure their recall, rather than their level of understanding, they are unlikely to invest the time in deep learning2.

Top tip: If you're thinking of using self-assessment methods in your module, here are a few pointers...

Explain why you're doing it

Let your students know from the outset why you think that introducing self-assessment is a good idea. Explaining how it will benefit them is particularly important as a move to self-assessment might require more effort on their part (learn more about the benefits of using self-assessment). Being clear and upfront should help you to avoid any negative perceptions that may arise from the introduction of self-assessment.

Discuss the assessment criteria with the students

In order for self-assessment to work effectively, there needs to be some transfer of 'ownership' of the assessment process and it may take some time to ensure students understand the assessment criteria against which they will be expected to evaluate their own work. Taking a bit of time 'up-front' to provide opportunities for students to define and understand what constitutes a 'good' or 'poor' piece of work is likely to pay dividends in helping them to improve their judgement skills and thus enhance their self-assessment abilities.

Define the process

You should aim to demonstrate to your students why and how self-assessments may be used. Your students will need to be reassured that they are free to be honest about their performance and that there are sufficient safeguards in place to ensure that other students will do the same and not be able to cheat. This is especially important if self-assessment is being used in a summative capacity.


  1. Boud, D. Enhancing Learning Through Self-Assessment. (1995). London. Routledge Falmer.
  2. Ramsden, P. (1998). Improving Learning: New Perspectives. London: Kogan Page.

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