3.3.2 Encouraging students to engage with the assessment criteria while completing their coursework
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Self-assessment sheets could be used to develop the students’ ability to evaluate their work during the research and write-up stage. The forms can provide a structured framework to help them reflect and critically evaluate their own assignments. Generic versions are available from various websites (for example) and could be easily adapted by tutors for use with specific coursework. One option is to include some simple yes or no questions, for example ‘Please indicate whether you have checked the following:
- The title of the piece of work i.e. is it correct?
- Referencing and bibliography – is it in the correct format?
- Labelling on any diagrams – is it complete and accurate?’
The form could ask the students to assess their own performance against a number of criteria. For example, they might be asked to rate their own work as excellent, good, adequate or poor against the following:
- quality of the introduction;
- structure and logical development of the content;
- relevance of the material to the question;
- understanding and application of relevant economic theory;
- depth of analysis;
- quality of the conclusion.
Some questions could be much more open ended with space left for the student to make some comments, for example ‘Please list what you feel are the strengths of the work’; ‘Which aspects of the work did you find the most difficult or are most dissatisfied with?’ Another alternative would be simply to ask the students to assess their work using the same marking sheet as the tutor. Two ranking lists could be included against each of the criteria, i.e. one for the student to complete and one for the lecturer to complete. An example is shown below.
Please rate your own work using the following scale:
1 = poor 2 = adequate 3 = good 4 = excellent
Understanding and application of relevant economic theory
1 2 3 4
1 2 3 4
Whatever version of the form is adopted, once completed, the students should attach a copy to their coursework when it is submitted.
Some reservations about the use of self-assessment sheets:
Will the self-assessment reflect the students true beliefs?
Rather than honest self-evaluation students may behave strategically if they believe that their rankings will have an influence on the tutor. For example, they may think that ranking their own work as poor will increase the likelihood of receiving a low mark from the tutor. It may be more effective to have two separate forms – one for the feedback provided by the tutor and one for the self-assessment sheet. It might also be useful to ask the students to attach the self-assessment sheet at the end of the assignment and the marking feedback sheet at the front of the assignment. The lecturer could explain that they will only look at the self-assessment sheet after they have filled in the marking sheet and awarded a final mark.
Will the students complete the forms?
Evidence from their use in three Geography modules found that completion rates varied between 28% and 75%. You could make submission of the self-assessment sheets part of the assessment criteria and deduct marks if they fail to attach them to the coursework. Alternatively you might explain that you will only release marks once the forms are submitted. However this may create some extra administrative costs for the tutor.
Will the students engage with the process in a meaningful way?
Studies have found that a majority of students admit to filling out the form at the last minute. They also acknowledged that they tended to simply tick the boxes without giving much thought to the self-evaluation process. Feedback from their use on Geography modules suggested that when filling out the forms a number of students realised the potential benefit but printed them out so late that there was no time to change their coursework. Those that had used them more than a few days before the deadline had found it useful in helping them to focus on the precise requirements for the coursework. They had adapted their coursework in response to this structured reflection process. This suggests that it is very important that the potential benefits of self-assessment forms are explained before they are used. However students may simply have to experience the forms and the regret of missing the potential benefits before they will engage with the process on subsequent assignments. It is strongly advised therefore that they are used on a number of modules and especially in the first year of the course. The form could be adapted to the assessment requirements of each particular module.
If possible use the self-assessment sheets across a range of modules as students do not seem to fully appreciate the potential benefits until they have failed to take advantage of the sheet on at least one occasion.