Student Self-Assessment: what I ask myself

Ms Ellen Cornish and Dr Don W Jordan

This article by two of our regular contributors, Ms Ellen Cornish and Dr Don Jordan, contributes to the discussion about Child Centred learning as it provides a practical example of how assessment is about more than testing rote learning. The article looks at student self assessment. A comprehensive self assessment rubric is provided to support a unit of work called Feeling Good, Feeling Great, The Human Body

  EllenEllen Cornish is a very experienced Early Childhood and Primary School teacher from Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.
Dr DonDr Don Jordan had an extensive career in Tasmanian schools and completed his doctorate at Curtin University in Western Australia. Both Don and Ellen have had experience in other countries, either as visiting teachers or consultants. They have contributed several articles to SCLT.

Student Self-Assessment: what I ask myself

Our classroom teaching experience has demonstrated to us that whilst our own teacher-made and standardized tests gave us information about our student’s learning, these tests did not provide us with all the information we required or to allow our students the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of what it is they had learnt. Nor did these testing regimes give students feedback on their own learning.

There is generally considered to be three types of assessment, formative, summative, and diagnostic, although the three assessment methods outlined below, in reality, are often concurrent. What was important to us was the predominant assessment approach we used to guide our teaching practice.
The first is formative assessment which is designed to give feedback to both teacher and students about how student learning is progressing during a unit of work. Formative assessment does more than measure what students have learned: it also provides feedback on how students are understanding and allows for constant adjustment to teaching strategies. The distinction is often made between assessment of learning (past) and assessment for learning (future), where the student is central to moving from assessment of learning to assessment for leaning. This formative framework allows the flexibility for student self-assessment to occur.
Secondly, summative assessments summarises through examination or test, what students have learnt at the completion of a unit of work usually expressed as a mark or grade, elements of which can also be used as part of student’s self-assessment.
Thirdly, and perhaps the most important, we used diagnostic assessment to assess student’s prior knowledge or misconceptions, and to assess their skill levels, before beginning a unit of work. It was very important for us to be aware of our student’s current level of knowledge and understanding. Asking students to consider ‘What I already know about’ and ‘What I would like to know about’ was a powerful ‘tuning’ in activity for us as well as our students, as it demonstrated that what they know and understand already is legitimate knowledge. This gave us a baseline from which we then adjusted our teaching programme.
We wanted our students to demonstrate their learning to us in a way that did not rely on standardised testing. We realized that we could not expect our students to participate in a wide range of learning experiences offered in our classrooms, and then require them to show what they had learnt through standardised tests that focus narrowly on linguistic and logical mathematical skills.
We required alternative forms of assessment that would generate relevant information for both the student’s and our needs. We selected assessment methods that would provide the relevant information we wanted, to inform us and our students of where our students were in their learning. We also wanted to be sure we maintained authentic assessment strategies.
Student Self-Assessment.
We define student assessment as students judging the quality of their own work, based on evidence and explicit criteria, for the purpose of developing higher order skills. We knew that if we encouraged our students to self-assess their own learning, they would monitor their own progress. Involving our students in the assessment process meant that we needed to teach them how to assess their own progress, against quality standards.  This self-evaluation is a potentially powerful technique because of its impact on student performance. With practice, they learnt to:

  • Reflect on and evaluate their progress and skill development.
  • Identify gaps in their understanding and capabilities.
  • Discern how to improve their performance.
  • Learn independently and think critically.

Benjamin Bloom’s (1956), six levels of learning; (remembering, understanding, applying, analysing, evaluating and creating), became very important in our thinking and questioning of our students, to help them develop critical thinking and understanding. His six levels, from the simple recall or recognition of facts, as the lowest level, through increasingly more complex and abstract mental levels, to the highest order was presented to students in the form of rubrics.

We required students to practise using rubrics by providing a critique on the work of their peers, and then to apply the same criteria to their own work. This experience has shown us that students must first learn to peer assess if they are to self-assess effectively.
Howard Gardner’s (2006a), eight intelligences; verbal / linguistic, logical / mathematical, visual / spatial / musical / rhythmic, bodily / kinaesthetic, Interpersonal, Intrapersonal and naturalist, suggest that people learn in different ways. Gardner’s belief is that we should get away from tests and instead look at a wide range of sources about how humans develop skills important to their way of life. He states that each person has eight different kinds of intelligence. These occur concurrently and are generally developed to differing stages.  In particular, the Interpersonal (people) Intelligence and Intrapersonal (self) Intelligence aspects are often incorporated in activities in which students work cooperatively and reflect on their learning in class sharing time.
This implies that teachers should use a range of teaching and assessment strategies and provide a range of activities in key learning areas that will enable students to use their strengths and develop greater competencies.
Benjamin Bloom’s six levels of learning and Howard Gardner’s eight intelligences organised in a learning matrix, provided us with a powerful approach which enabled our students to self-assess and to take responsibility for their own learning.
We have referred to our previous article ‘Feeling good, Feeling great: the Human Body, as a unit of work to illustrate student self-assessment using a matrix of Bloom’s levels of learning and  Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, to develop a student self-assessment rubric.


 Student Self-Assessment Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. Feeling Good, Feeling Great. The Human Body.
You are to complete at least one activity from each of Bloom’s activities and Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence activities on the matrix. Bloom aims to extend your thinking into more complex thinking skills. Gardner’s multiple intelligence activities aim to expose you to the different learning areas where you can explore both your strengths but also build upon your weaker learning areas.
  Bloom’s Taxonomy                                                                            Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences
  Verbal/ Linguistic   Logical / Mathematical  Visual / Spatial Musical /Rhythmic Bodily / Kinaesthetic Interpersonal Intrapersonal Naturalist
Remembering. (Recall or recognition of specific information) Students label body parts they have identified. Encourage oral presentations, giving reasons for their Categorise foods into the Eat Most, Eat least, Eat moderately sections of the Healthy Diet Pyramid Visual artwork, graphs, maps, collages of the body. Listen to music about the human body Have students draw a life size human body. With a partner – research the different food groups and report on their benefits to the body. Draw a picture of you and your family eating a healthy meal. Classify different natural (unprocessed) foods for a healthy diet.
Understanding (Understanding of given information) Interpreting text, paraphrasing, Storytelling, Working in groups, ask students to compare different breakfast foods for sugar, fibre, fat, energy and salt content Have students create the inside of the body using various materials. Name and draw the instruments used in a piece of music about the body.sic about the bodydyrom the 200 What factors contribute to physical health and well-being? In pairs, discuss the changes in eating patterns over the last twenty years. What is your favourite food? Write about it and explain the reasons why you like it and how it keeps you healthy. List environmental factors that affect growing healthy foods.
Applying (Using strategies, concepts, principles and theories in new situations Assess students’ oral presentations to the class of their research task, including their diagram/ body poster. Have each group produce a graph to depict the nutritional data collected on the foods and identify which food is the healthiest. Trace around your hand, write a healthy food along or inside each finger, then illustrate the food on the remaining section of the hand. Listen to some music about the body and create dance movements to one of the songs. Choose five food types and compare the benefits of each for healthy growth and movement. Have students assess their own diet and make considered choices about what they might change. Make a book to share with younger children or for the school library. Grow vegetables, fruit and herbs and then use them to cook a meal.
Analysing   (breaking information down into its component elements) Explain how all the body parts work together. Ask students to compare different breakfast foods for sugar, fibre, fat, energy and salt content. Compare three healthy types of food. Make the one that you feel is the healthiest with modelling clay Explain your decision. Promote healthy eating through performing a short jingle / song  How can we find out about how our bodies work? Devise a plan for adjusting their diet. Make a board game to play with your friends to demonstrate the knowledge they have gained. Make a poster promoting the benefits of eating fresh food grown by you.
Evaluating (Judging the value of ideas, materials and methods by developing and applying standards and criteria. Have students speak to the class to analyse each other’s diet and then to justify their decision as to whether it is balanced or not. Ask students to organise their information and make choices about how best to present their research. e.g. flow chart, series of models, timeline depicting particular events etc. Select your favourite 5 healthiest types of food and make a poster justifying your decision. Write a response for a piece of music about the body. Comment on movement, music and cultural significance. Select 5 different foods and rate them in order of from least healthy to healthiest for a top athlete. Justify your answer. In groups of four watch an advertisement about food and rate what you saw.  Explain your ratings. Evaluate the benefits of a healthy diet as opposed to an unhealthy one. Compare the affects that eating fresh food and processed foods has on your body.
Creating (putting together ideas or elements to develop an original idea or engage in creative thinking) Ask students to organise their information and make choices about how best to present their research. Have students use their knowledge of a balanced diet to design a breakfast menu. Have them consider cost of preparing food at school, etc. Create your own healthy food concertina booklet.  Use each page to draw pictures of healthy food and write a sentence or two about each food. Create and write a simple rhythm for a percussion instrument to accompany 1 minute of music about the body Mime the actions of how a poor diet can affect your body as opposed to a healthy diet In pairs design and cook a healthy meal. Create your own word puzzle with healthy food words. Create a visual display of healthy unprocessed food.

Student Self-Assessment.  Feeling Good Feeling Great. The Human Body.

Howard Gardner’s MI Benjamin Bloom’s six levels of learning




Verbal / Linguistic I was able to apply my knowledge and understanding of the human body in a clear and precise way and organise a healthy menu, to share with my class I gave my reasons for a balanced diet in a coherent way to the class, but I had some difficulty labelling body parts. I was unable to make a case or explain what I learnt about the Human body or a healthy diet.
Logical / Mathematical I was able to analyse and categorise foods into sections of the Healthy Diet Pyramid and explain using a graph, why some foods are unhealthy. I was able to label some body parts, but I did not understand why some foods are unhealthy. I was unable to label many body parts or compare different food groups.
Visual / Spatial I created my own healthy food booklet and poster comparing and analysing three types of food. I was able to do the trace around the hand activity, and I was able to apply my knowledge to make a poster. I did not really understand the task, so I did not participate in the activities very much.
Musical /Rhythmic I was able to draw and name musical instruments and then to compose a song about eating a healthy food. I was able to draw and name the musical instruments but I was unable to compose a song. I could draw some of the musical instruments but I could not name them.
Bodily / Kinaesthetic I was able to identify 5 different foods and rate them in order from least healthy to healthiest for a top athlete. I was also able to justify my choice. I was able to identify 5 different foods and began to rate them but I had some difficulty justifying my choice. I had difficulty choosing 5 different foods.
Interpersonal.   I participated very well in group work. I always did my share of the work and participated in class discussion about the human body and having a healthy diet. I worked well most of the time. I did some of the work in the group and I thought about what I could share in class discussion. I wasted time in the group and I did not help much. I didn’t concentrate or try to think of things to share with the class.
Intrapersonal I was easily able to evaluate the benefits of a healthy diet as opposed to an unhealthy one. I could evaluate some of the benefits of a healthy diet. I did not really understand the task so I had difficulty completing it.
Naturalist I enjoyed comparing the affects that eating fresh food and processed foods have on your body. I was easily able to justify my results. I could discuss the affects that eating fresh food had on your body but had difficulty explaining the processed food. I had difficulty understanding the difference between the two food groups.

  References. Armstrong, T. (2009). Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom. Alexandria, VA: ASCD. Bloom, Benjamin S. & David R. Krathwohl. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals, by a committee of college and university examiners. Handbook 1: Cognitive domain. New York, Longmans. Gardner, H. (2006a). Multiple intelligences: New horizons in theory and practice. New York: Basic Books

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