Why should I use self-assessment?

Getting students involved with assessment through the introduction of self-assessment to your programme can help to promote Assessment for Learning.

Top tip: When deciding whether to use self-assessment, it's worth bearing in mind that self-assessment can...

Assess understanding, as well as knowledge

Some assessment methods only measure students' ability to regurgitate knowledge, not how well they understand the topic. Self-assessment can provide insight into students' true comprehension and can help to identify gaps in students' knowledge.

Promote student-centred learning

Encouraging students to examine their own learning and levels of understanding can also be an important 'wake-up call', identifying areas that require improvement1. This approach promotes a shift towards student-centred learning in which students define their own goals and the steps required to meet them.

Consolidate learning

Reflecting on the things that they have learned requires students to consider new knowledge in the light of their previous experiences. This can open up new levels of understanding, as well as dispelling any former misconceptions they may have had.

Promote deeper learning

The process of explaining the assessment criteria, or indeed defining the criteria in consultation with students can help promote deeper learning, as students must have an understanding of both the subject matter and the assessment task in order to gauge how well they have met the criteria2.

Improve student engagement

The transfer of ownership that takes place through discussion of assessment criteria can lead to a greater degree of student engagement and can encourage them to apply these criteria objectively and consistently. However, student involvement in the development of assessment criteria is not always possible.

Develop judgement skills

In order to assess their own work, students must develop their judgement skills so they can define what is 'good' or 'bad' about a piece of work. This ability to judge the quality of a piece of work can then be more widely applied to the work of others - including source materials. The increased use of technology in education has made this a valuable tool in the students' armoury, as the Internet has placed a vast range of resources beyond the usual set texts within easy reach of your students. It's therefore vital that they possess sufficient judgement to be able to discriminate between good and poor sources3, not only for their studies, but as a lifelong skill.


  1. Race, P. (2001). A Briefing on Self-, Peer, and Group Assessment. LTSN Generic Centre Assessment Series No. 9. York. LTSN Generic Centre.
  2. Hughes, I E (1995). Peer assessment of student practical reports and its influence on learning and skill acquisition. Capability. 1, 3943
  3. Brew, A. (2003). Towards Autonomous Assessment: Using Self-Assessment and Peer Assessment. In Assessment Matters in Higher Education: Choosing and Using Diverse Approaches. Buckingham. The Society for Research into Higher Education & Open University Press. pp. 159-171.

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