Why is student self reflection important?
A key goal of formative assessment and feedback is to help students develop as independent learners capable of monitoring and regulating their own learning. Simply providing feedback does not achieve this. It's only when learners actively engage with the assessment criteria and process of evaluating performance against those criteria that they are able to use feedback in a way that leads to improvement. 1
Research shows that a combination of student self-reflection and peer review is most likely to result in deeper learning. Helping students better understand their own level of achievement is likely to reduce costly and time-consuming appeals and complaints.
The aim is to create a learning experience in which students can take responsibility for setting their own learning goals and evaluating progress in reaching those goals.
What are the common problems?
Students' ability to self-assess and regulate their learning is often undermined by a transmission model that treats students as passive recipients of feedback delivered by tutors. This creates a mindset that assessment is the tutor's responsibility.
Responding to feedback
The means of capturing self-assessment and reflection also needs to facilitate dialogue around that reflection. For example an assignment cover sheet can be a useful reflective tool but simply giving students a form to fill in doesn't necessarily challenge a teacher-centric approach.
One university found that rather than undertaking self-assessment, students used cover sheets to write a 'shopping list' of what they wanted from tutors. A more effective solution involved closing the feedback loop by asking students to keep a reflective journal giving their response to the feedback.
Integrating self-assessment and reflection
The tools used to support self-assessment and reflection need to be easy to integrate into every day learning and working practices. The University of Westminster developed an open source tool to support student reflection and found that the stand-alone nature of the tool was a barrier to take up and further work was required to make it LTI compliant so that it could integrate with other learning platforms.
Nicol (2010)2 notes that developing the capacity to critically self evaluate the quality or impact of work may be implicit in most university curricula although it's almost never explicitly stated as a learning outcome. He argues that doing so would significantly change the organisation and delivery of the curriculum.
For example there would be a much greater emphasis on self and peer processes and putting learners in control as co-contributors to the curriculum.
How might we use technology and what are the benefits?
It can play a significant part in enabling the development of self-monitoring and self-evaluative skills. Examples include:
- Online quizzes with automated, interactive feedback - they offer self-assessment opportunities before attempting an assignment
- Screen capture software can demonstrate how to use assessment criteria, clarify goals and standards in an accessible way
- Online dialogue through blogging, fora, email, internet messaging and wikis can provide opportunities to test and correct understanding, enabling the incremental development of self-monitoring and self-evaluative skills
- E-portfolios facilitate peer-to-peer, peer-to-tutor dialogue, private reflection and, in some cases, assignment submission and receipt
- Audio and video feedback offer richer, more personalised feedback. Audio recorded podcasts also provide an efficient approach to giving feed forward to large groups
- WebPA, a tool for peer moderation of group assignments, can assess achievement outcome processes.
However, the focus need not be on individual technologies. Increasingly, curriculum designers draw on combinations of technologies to provide a learning environment that continuously promotes self-monitoring, self-evaluation and reflection on progress.
How does self reflection relate to the lifecycle?
At the specifying and setting stages you will think about designing activities that encourage self-reflection on individual assignments. At the supporting stage you will promote the value of self-assessment and reflection and provide good practice guidance to students.
The reflecting stage of the lifecycle is an iteration that students will cover many times in evaluating their progress.
What resources can help?
Our video shows how the University of Westminster improved student engagement with feedback by encouraging self-reflection:
- The University of Westminster's making assessment count project emphasised student self-reflection. Outputs included a project report and the Feedback+ tool
- The University of Winchester's screen cast helps students and staff make effective use of PebblePad as a reflective tool
- Our case study from Glasgow Clyde College shows how games help medical administration students self-assess in relation to difficult terminology.
- 1 See for example Nicol, D. & Macfarlane-Dick, D. (2006) Formative assessment and self-regulated learning: a model and seven principles of good feedback practice. Studies in Higher Education, Vol 31(2), 199-218.
- 2 Nicol, D. (2010) The Foundation for Graduate Attributes: developing self-regulation through self and peer assessment. Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. http://www.enhancementthemes.ac.uk/themes/21stCGraduates/outcomes.asp