How important is self assessment?

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raydeal's picture
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Hello everybody

My name is Albert P'Rayan and I'm from India.

I've associated myself with IATEFL online forums for the past five years.

IATEFL Online is a wonderful opportunity for us to interact with people from different countries. It contributes to our professional development.

I'd like to initiate a discussion on the topic: "How important is self assessment in the ESL class? Do you encourage your students to assess their own performance? Does it contribute to learner autonomy?"

I'd like to get your views on the topic.

Albert

guipac's picture
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Hi Albert.

Great choice of topic. Self-assessment is crucial in our Brazilian culture because, in general terms, the school system "spoonfeeds" students too much. Most Brazilian students are over-dependent on their teachers. As a consequence, their ability to work independently is somehow stifled.

In other words, there's a lot of work for teachers who want to encourage learner autonomy!

Looking forward to hearing from other members of the community.

Best wishes,

Guilherme.

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Hi Albert

Training teachers across India has shown me that teachers are curious and often skeptical about how feasible learner-autonomy and self-assessment can be, in our Indian scenario. We, as trainers need to show them practical tasks connected with their syllabi which will make both, learner autonomy and self assessment work, help inject back into the learning cycle as well get curricular work done well in time!

Maybe we could work at this?

Sonali Bhattacharyya, Kolkata

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Hello Albert,
As Guilherme said, self-assessment seems to be a key element in the promotion of autonomy in our learners, but the Greek students I have been working with in Higher Education find self-assessment difficult as the concept is quite alien to them.
I therefore provide what Falchikov refers to as 'scaffolding' by having them peer-assess the writing and speaking of fellow-students first, so they have practice in using the given assessment criteria and in thinking critically before moving on to assessing their own work. This is done anonymously and without consultation (allowing for Little's 'critical detachment'). The instructor also uses the same assessment criteria and grades for assignments are worked out through a process of triangulation.
In a 5-year research project I conducted, there was a surprising degree of alignment between peer-assessment, self-assessment and instructor assessment, showing that learners can, in the majority of cases, assess objectively and responsibly. Not only that, but they seemed to enjoy this recalibration of assessment power and really learned a lot through the experience of judging and assessing.
As with anything of pedagogical value, working on assessment in this way involves a lot more organisational and administrative work on the part of the instructor, but I think it reaps huge benefits for everyone involved.

Carol

raydeal's picture
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Hi Sonali, Carol and Guilherme

Many thanks for all your comments.

Learner autonomy is very important for learners of English or any language. Those teachers who promote learner autonomy can be considered great teachers. The teacher's role is to make dependent learners independent and interdependent.

Unfortunately, in India most English language teachers seem to be obsessed with giving tests and exams and preparing students for exams. Spoon feeding seems to be the guiding principle for most of the teachers. Only when we put an end to such exam-oriented coaching, we will be able to do justice to students and promote learner autonomy.

What is crucial at this moment is that the teachers of English should start assessing their role and performance in the ESL class.

Discussion to continue...

Albert

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Hi All

I think a learner cannot carry out self-assessment of his/her skills without metacognitive awareness. What do you think?

Cheers

Bushra

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Hi Bushra,

I wholeheartedly agree with you. Meta-cognition is a key notion in the area of learner autonomy. Being meta-cognitively aware help students act more autonomously.

Tebib

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Great topic Albert. I think offering opportunities for self-assessment is important as these opportunities lead to more reflection on "What do I want to learn?" / "What am I learning?" / "What have I been learning?" . I feel sometimes the classroom pace and diversity of learners means that it's tough to have enough time to allow room for this . I feel that online (ie. by creating a web-based environment) self-assessment can grow (organically at a self-paced level) and is often very motivating as it places the learner at the centre of the learning process. I guess it depends on how you involve them and how they perceive their involvement. Discussing this and their goals is essential.
I am not sure about the reliability and validity of these "techniques" but if the learners are getting something out of the self-evaluation tasks / activities then it's definitely worth the effort of offering this space and option.

Looking forward to more views and seeing this thread develop...
Valentina

raydeal's picture
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Hi all,

If we don't think or ask ourselves why we teach English and if we don't allow our students to think or allow them to ask the question why they learn English we can call it 'TENOR' (Teaching English for NO Reasons).

Teachers should constantly assess their own practices and encourage students to assess their language needs. This will help promote learner autonomy.

Albert

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Hi all,

One problem with self, and peer assessment is the difficulty in 'training' students to be objective. When I was in the Emirates, students always tended to feel that whatever they, or their peers, produced was excellent and it took a great feal of time to explain that such attitudes were not helpful to either the students themselves, or their peers.

Here in Macau, where students only have minimal contact with their English teachers, it is even more difficult to help students look at their own achievements objectively. At the same time, I do believe, and try to point this out to my students, that reflecting on what they do themselves is an essential part of being successful.

Phil

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I think the original question is flawed and would be better asked as: "How important is self assesmant in 'your' ESL classroom?" Becaue it is obvious from the variety of comments already generated that there is more than just 'one' ESL classroom.

To be really effective we need to be culturally aware of the different ways in which our particular students think and that will depend a lot on the social norms of the country or culture that we are working within, and also the age of the student. We talk a lot about L1 but maybe not enough about C1 (first culture). And I think we have to be careful that when we teach English we don't over promote a western model of thinking or unnecessarily elevate the western model.

Albert, your comment (#4) probably gives us the best advice of all:
"What is crucial at this moment [but actually everyday and all the time], is that the teachers of English should start assessing their role and performance in the ESL class."

Our performance and effectivenes in the classroom will depend a lot on the cultural context in which we teach and we may find that promoting learner autonomy with a particular set of students in one country to be less useful in another. So, Viva la difference'
Let the debate continue....

raydeal's picture
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Hi Kevin

Yes, C1 does matter a lot.

Albert

hmbaba's picture
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Hello
Isn't self-assessment by students a TOTALLY different topic from 'teachers assessing their role'?
Heather

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I also think that there is a difference between self-assessment and teachers assessing/ idntifying their role. Self-assessment is very important as there is far too much focus on assessment. However, in order to promote peer- and self-assessment we need to develop our learners' metacognitive skills.

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I fully agree with the importance you all give to metacognition in developing autonomy. Developing this foreign language strategy is paramount for autonomy and for self preparation for better assessment results.

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