There is a luxury in self-reproach. When we blame ourselves we feel that no one else has a right to blame us.  – Oscar Wilde

Self-assessment -filling out self-evaluation forms, journaling, surveying, writing revisions, asking questions, and discussing to determine what students know and want to know. This practice helps learners clarify their own beliefs and misconceptions. Correctly implemented, student self-assessment can promote intrinsic motivation, internally controlled effort, a mastery goal orientation, and more meaningful learning.

As noted in McMillan & Hearn (2008),

Self-assessment is conceptualized as the combination of three components related in a cyclical, ongoing process: self-monitoring, self-evaluation, and identification and implementation of instructional correctives as needed. Essentially, students identify their learning and performance strategies, provide feedback to themselves based on well-understood standards and criteria, and determine the next steps or plans to enhance their performance

To support self-assessment, students should be included in the process of setting clear learning goals, identifying benchmarks towards reaching these goals and creating opportunities for students to self-report their learning achievements. Note the table below  adapted by McMillan & Hearn from Rolheiser (1996) which describes the different stages of implementation of student self-assessment:

Growth Scheme for Teacher Implementation of Stages of Student Self-Assessment


Student self-assessment enhances student motivation by providing a sense of ownership and responsibility in their learning.

For example, students can self-assess their performance on an online discussion forum by beginning with a set of reflection questions:


  • How much did you know about these subjects before we started?
  • What process did you go through to produce your comments?
  • In what ways have you gotten better at commenting?
  • In what ways do you think you need to improve?
  • What problems did you encounter while you were working on your comments? How did you solve them?
  • What resources did you use while working on your comments? Which ones were especially helpful? Which ones would you use again?


  • How do you feel about your comments? What parts of them do you particularly like? Dislike? Why? What did/do you enjoy about commenting?
  • What was especially satisfying to you about either the process or the finished product?
  • What did/do you find frustrating about it?
  • What were your standards for commenting?
  • Did you meet your standards?
  • What were your goals for commenting? Did your goals change as you worked on them? Did you meet your goals?
  • What do your comments reveal about you as a learner?
  • What did you learn about yourself as you worked on your comments?
  • Have you changed any ideas you used to have on these subjects?
  • When comparing earlier comments with later ones, what changes can you see?
  • How did those changes come about?
  • What does that tell you about yourself and how you learn?


  • Did you produce your comments the way other people did theirs?
  • In what ways did you do it differently?
  • In what ways was your work or process similar?
  • What grade would you give them? Why?
  • What’s the one thing you particularly want people to notice when they see/hear/ read your comments?
  • What do your classmates particularly notice about your comments if they have responded to them?
  • In what ways did your comments meet the standards set by the class as a whole?
  • In what ways did your comments not meet those standards?
  • If someone else were looking at your comments, what might they learn about who you are?


  • One thing I would like to improve upon is …
  • What would you change if you had a chance to do your comments over again?
  • What will you change in future comments?
  • What’s the one thing that you have seen in your classmates’ work or process that you would like to try in your next piece?
  • As you look at your comments in total, what’s one thing that you would like to try to improve upon?
  • What’s one goal you would like to set for yourself for next time?
  • What would you like to spend more time on in in each unit?

Adapted from The 40 Reflection Questions

Further Reading

McMillan, J. H.& Hearn, J. (2008) Student self-assessment: the key to stronger student motivation and higher achievement. Educational Horizons , v87 n1 p40-49 Fall.

Rolheiser, C., ed. 1996. Self-evaluation . . . Helping Students Get Better at It! A Teacher’s  Resource  Book.  Toronto: Cooperative Learning Evaluation & Assessment Research Group.

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