Some of the questions we hear teachers ask, regardless of the grade level or subject area, are about self-assessment:

  • Why can’t my students self-assess or give feedback to their peers?
  • Why, when I ask my students to peer assess, do they only say things like, I like your work or You need to try harder to make this better?
  • Didn’t the teachers before me teach these students how to self-assess and give feedback to others?

As Dr. Heidi Andrade writes in the foreword to Self-Assessment and Goal Setting – 2nd Edition, students of any age are able to self-assess if necessary conditions and elements for success are present:

  • Awareness of the value of self-assessment,
  • Access to clear criteria on which to base the assessment,
  • A specific task or performance to assess,
  • Models of self-assessment,
  • Direct instruction in and assistance with self-assessment,
  • Practice,
  • Cues regarding when it is appropriate to self-assess, and
  • Opportunities to revise and improve the task or performance.

Don’t simply expect students to self-assess or give feedback to a classmate. Rather, teach them that skill. When students are engaged in self- or peer assessment, they are analyzing and thinking critically. These are thinking skills that are present in all curricular and competency documents.

'Students don't have the tools to intuitively self-assess or give feedback to their classmates in a positive, constructive way. You need to teach them that skill.' ~ Anne Davies, Sandra Herbst, and Brenda Augusta Click To Tweet

Now, take another look at that list. We hope that it reminds you of the pedagogical practices you already use in your classroom, like modelling, cueing, and direct instruction. As a result, preparing students to engage in self- and peer assessment is not a stretch. You are already well on your way to making that happen!

Think about the following to help you get your students better prepared to self-assess or give feedback to others:

Use established success criteria. When students have access to the language of quality and proficiency, then they know exactly what to say to themselves or someone else. For example, there is a big difference between these statements: I like how you solved your math problem and I noticed that in your math problem you identified the givens, you wrote out each step that you took to solve the problem, and you simplified your equation. The next time you might want to check to see whether your answer is reasonable or not. The students did not simply pull this language out of a hat. Rather, they consulted the criteria to become far more specific and descriptive.

Practice self- and peer assessment. Serve as a sample to your students. Why don’t you write, read, engage in a scientific observation or solve a math problem in front of them? Pause every three or four minutes. Have your students reflect on what you just did and said and then give your feedback using the language of quality and proficiency and sentence stems like, I noticed that you… and Next time you might try…

Revise the task or performance. Students need to understand that self- and peer assessment are not merely hoops to jump through. When they make the adjustments that the feedback identifies, improvements are made and grades can even increase. One way to make this very visible to students is to quickly review a piece of student work and record the score that you would currently award it. Do not share that score with the student just yet. After the student has revised the work based on a round or two of feedback, review the work once more. What score would you give it now? Reveal the first score to the student, along with the second one. Ask the student questions about the difference and how the feedback improved not only achievement, but learning, as well.

Want more?

Read the foreword to Self-Assessment and Goal Setting – 2nd Edition to hear more from Dr. Heidi Andrade, and then continue reading to learn about practical strategies for self- and peer assessment.

Anne Davies, Sandra Herbst, and Brenda Augusta

Anne Davies, Sandra Herbst, and Brenda Augusta

Anne Davies, Sandra Herbst, and Brenda Augusta are educators, consultants, authors, and presenters who are highly sought after, both locally and globally. Their energy, passion, and expertise have helped teachers, leaders, schools, and systems to move forward with competence and confidence. Learn more about the team here...


Like most education professionals, we have a burning desire to make a difference in the lives of learners. We started as teachers and leaders, but saw the potential to drive greater transformation by creating and sharing methodologies with other educators.

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