Peer- and self-assessment

Research (for example, Butler and Winne, 1995; Black and Wiliam, 1998; Swaffield, 2011) suggests that when learners are given opportunities to be more active within the assessment process they are better able to develop, use, and apply their understanding to improve the quality of their own work with increasing autonomy. As a result, students become less dependent on their teacher and, therefore, owners of their own learning.

Self- and peer-assessment is much more than students simply ticking or crossing their own and/or each other’s work. It is a review process whereby inferences of current learning can be made based on:

  • reflecting upon past experiences;
  • evaluating and attempting to articulate what has been learned; and
  •  identifying, in the light of this reflection, what still needs to be perused.

(Broadfoot, 2008: 135)

Although very useful, a problem here is that this reflective thinking, although important, is done after learning, not during. To help support even better self- and peer-assessment teachers have a responsibility to grow self-regulating learners.

Self-regulating learners are those who set their own learning goals during learning, and then monitor and regulate their learning behaviour, motivation and cognitive strategies to achieve the desired outcome (Zimmerman and Schunk, 2011). Growing self-regulating learners can be scaffolded by teachers where three questions become key:

  • Where am I going? (what is the learning intention?)
  • Where am I now? (where am I currently within the success criteria?)
  • Where to next? (What do I still need to do to meet the learning intention?)

Again, the important point, however, is not just knowing this information (formative intention), but, crucially, that it is acted upon (formative action) to improve and develop the teaching and learning cycle. This, then, is formative assessment in action. 

More information and examples can be found in Wiliam (2018a, 2018b), and Wiliam and Leahy (2015).