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Assessment and
achievement in Scottish schools is a fundamental part of the Curriculum for
Excellence, promoting pupil success within and out with the classroom (Scottish
Government, 2017).  With the introduction
of Assessment is for Learning (AifL) in 2004, new emphasis was placed upon
formative assessment (Scottish Government 2005).   The
aim of this paper is to critically review pupil self-assessment; an aspect of
AifL.    During School Experience 1B
(SE1B), I observed and reflected upon my own practice and that of my supporter
teacher.  I identified that pupil self-assessment
is a valuable tool in promoting pupil motivation and self-directed
learning.  This paper will consist of two
main sections, I will begin by introducing the focus of the professional
enquiry.  Subsequently I will critically
review literature and theories regarding AifL in particular pupil
self-assessment with an aim to improve my practice therefore provide the best learning
experiences for pupils.

 

Purpose of Professional Enquiry

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The teaching profession
is a diverse occupation requiring continual evolution and progression by its
practitioners to provide the best opportunities and outcomes for children (Dana
and Yendol-Hoppey, 2014).   Teaching
practices which are effective for one child may be unproductive for another,
therefore teachers must continually reflect upon their practice evaluating both
success and failure as a means for improvement (Campbell, 2013).         

The prominence of
professional enquiry is endorsed by the General Teaching Council for Scotland
(GTCS) throughout The Standards for Registration (GTCS, 2012), requiring
members to demonstrate lifelong commitment by engaging in professional
development, investigation and reflection. 
As a student teacher I understand the importance of reflection and its
ability to be used as a means of identifying success and required improvement.  During SE1A, I completed daily reflections
which I felt provided me with the tools and focus to identify areas of my
practice which facilities and hindered children’s understanding and learning.  On commencement of SE1B, I studied the GTCS
Standards for registration and decided to focus upon point 3.3.1, “Use
assessment, recording and reporting as an integral part of the teaching process
to support and enhance learning,” (GTCS, 2012 pp.17).  I decided to focus my attention upon AifL
(Scottish Government, 2005) Techniques specifically self-assessment by evolving
children in their own learning.  Through reflection,
observation and learning conversations; I discovered that children are more
able and motivated to self-assess when they are consulted and assist in the
development of learning objectives.  This
observation developed the basis of my professional enquiry.  Similarly, I felt children could only
accurately self-assess when they fully understood the learning intentions and
success criteria.  On recommendation from
my supporter teacher I introduced the Know-Want-Learn (K-W-L) strategy (Ogle,
1986) to promote child involvement and ownership in learning whilst providing a
tool for children to self-assess and track their own learning.  

 

AifL and Self-Assessment

Within a local perspective,
Aberdeen City Council demonstrate their commitment to ensure all children thrive
and flourish; publishing in the Children’s Services Plan 2017-2020 (Aberdeen
City Council, 2017, p.4)  that a primary
aim is to ensure “children and young people are listened to, respected, valued
and involved in the decision-making process and supported to achieve”.  I feel AifL is a valuable tool in achieving
this.   AifL is concerned with developing better
learning and achievement within schools; promoting the involvement of teachers
and pupils alike in the development and tracking of assessment to further learning
(Scottish Government, 2005).   Effective
assessment practice occurs when pupils have a clear understanding of learning
intentions, productive feedback is given, they are involved in the decision
process regarding what has to be done to improve and the methods to achieve
this (Scottish Government, 2005; Clark, 2012). 
AifL promotes formative assessment as a tool for both teachers and
pupils to gain immediate feedback to improve both teaching and learning (Black
and Wiliam, 1998; McDonald and Boud, 2003). Through effective questioning
techniques, observations, and self and peer assessment; pupils and teachers can
build and develop teaching and learning strategies that not only promote
learning but provide motivation and ownership for pupils regarding their
learning (Black and Harrison, 2004; Clark, 2012).  

 

Pupil ownership of learning
is a notion acclaimed by most key writers regarding formative assessment.  (McDonald and Boud, 2003; Wallace et al., 2007).  An effective method to stimulate pupil
ownership is through self-assessment. 
Self-assessment promotes pupils to evaluate the quality of their work and
learning while identifying areas of development aiding their understanding and
skills (McMillian and Hearn, 2008; Andrade and Valtceve, 2009).  Black and Wiliam (1998) argue that a pupil who
unconsciously follows the learning path propose by a teacher without
understanding the learning intension with not effectively learn.  Through the use of self-assessment pupils can
stimulate personal motivation by setting individual goals promoting a more
meaningful learning experience (McMillian and Hearn, 2008).    Similarly, Blake and Wiliam (1998) along
with Sadler (1989) maintain that to be successful; pupils must possess a
motivation and desire to learn.  Clark (2012)
agrees with this notion, observing that pupils who practice self-assessment
develop autonomous learning abilities increasing engagement in the learning
process thus leading to positive outcomes. 
 To effectively self-assess pupils
need a clear understanding of the learning intentions, link previous knowledge
and have an awareness what must be accomplished to achieve the success criteria
(McMillian and Hearn, 2008).  Pupils are
required to actively contribute in all elements of the learning process; while
teachers must be willing to coach students in the evaluation process before handing
over responsibility of work ownership to each individual student (McMillian and
Hearn, 2008).

 

However in spite of the
apparent benefits of self-assessment, Clarke (2012) and Macintyre et al. (2007)
report that the increased responsibility of pupils caused concern for some
teachers.     Areas
of concern include; the fear that inaccurate self-assessment would impact
negatively on learning outcomes and increasing pupil power gave way for the
possibility of pupils developing disruptive behaviours losing focus of the end
goal (Black and Wiliam, 2006; Ross, 2006).  
Overall, the most discussed concern regarding pupil self-assessment is its
reliability to gauge pupil learning and development (Ross, 2006).   Pupil’s own self-assessments are commonly
graded higher then teacher evaluations, however Boud and Falchikov (1989)
suggest that young pupils may overestimate their learning due to lack of
reasoning skills to correctly judge information regarding their abilities.  Contrary, research suggests that pupils as
young as seven years can accurately self-assess providing learning intentions
and success criteria is explicitly discussed and defined (Boud and Falchikov,
1989; Ross, 2006; Brown 2008; Wong, 2016). 
Subsequently, these discussions have the added advantage of putting
emphasis on the development of learning rather than the end result.  This method has been commended as it allows teachers
the opportunity to encourage pupils to formulate individual learning needs and
devise methods for achievement, putting control in the hands of the pupil.  

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