Grading Myth 1: Self-Assessment

Never cheapen self-assessments with grades.

  “I hated going through (self-assessments) and having to figure out which students are ‘playing the game,’ which students are being honest, which students ‘deserve’ to earn a low grade. To my thinking there are less coercive ways that take longer, because they require me to deepen my relationship with some kid…” -Mike Peto, My Generation of Polyglots 

Self-assessments or even peer-assessments are an effective form of informal assessment but only if we do not grade those assessments (Stiggins 296; Overlie 195).  The carrot and stick of grading undermines what self-assessment should be: helping children develop  metacognition and mindfulness.

Research varies based on the variety of contexts in which self-assessment is used, however, most studies find “weaker students do have a tendency to over-rate themselves, sometimes quite considerably, and stronger students have the opposite tendency”(Boud 6).  Stronger students who score themselves lower value intellectual honesty over grades, which results in more honed metacognative ability and more success throughout their school careers.

So how do we turn all children into “stronger students” with better metacogntion?  Allowing students to conference with us person-to-person with informal chats or even more formal portfolio assessment.  Sit alongside children and listen.  Stronger students may volunteer to give groups a pep talk or present their stories in a well-though out way like Beniko Mason does here.

Converse with students however you would like.  Just know that students (and teachers) assess more honestly without the burden of evaluation (grades).

Boud, D. (1989). The role of self assessment in student grading, Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 14, 1, 20-30.  Retrieved from:

Overlie, J. (2009). Creating Confident, Capable Learners. From Guskey, T. R., & Erkens, C. The teacher as assessment leader. Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.

Stiggins, R. J. (2005). Student-involved assessment for learning. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall.


Published by

Claire Walter

I am an ESL teacher and I promote differentiated, compassionate instruction and assessment for English Language Learners.

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