Reflecting on the learning process is a skill that will serve students well. Utilizing student self-assessment or self-grading can lead to learning benefits (2022 & 2017): 

  • Supports intrinsic motivation for learning 
  • Development of transferrable skills – such as self-monitoring, reflective practice, and self-directed learning 
  • Stronger student-faculty relationships & decreased grading anxiety  
  • Increases in student motivation 
  • Elevates student voice and challenges traditional hierarchical norms frequently found in higher-education spaces 

As much as education systems pretend, grading is not objective. Letter grades mean different things in different classes, and students' grades are impacted by a wide range of factors beyond just learning (Blum, 2021). Students enter your classroom with different starting points, and self-assessment can be an avenue for you to better understand each individual student’s learning process.  

Below are three different strategies that can be used for student self-assessment in your classroom – starting with the simplest to implement and building towards an Ungrading approach to assessment.  

  • Cognitive Wrappers

    Cognitive Wrappers are one of the easiest self-assessment techniques you can incorporate into your course. Jose Bowen provides a thorough explanation and examples in his blog post, Cognitive Wrappers: Using Metacognition and Reflection to Improve Learning. Bowen provides a model for a four-part “wrapper” to give to students after an exam: 

    • Rationale: This is only to help you improve. 
    • Reflection: How did you prepare for this exam? 
    • Comparison: What kinds of mistakes did you make? 
    • Adjustment: How will you prepare differently next time? 

    If you wanted students’ self-assessment of their exam performance to be a graded component, you would modify the “rationale” to say something like: 

    • Rationale: Reflecting on your learning is an important part of your grade in this course. 

    You can have students engage in the “wrapper” during class time or as something they do on their own time and turn in. Find more details and templates here.  

  • Self-Assessment Utilizing a Rubric

    Utilizing the same criteria, you use to grade students, you can have students evaluate their own performance on given assignments, projects, or in class discussion. Here is an example of a rubric that is used as a guiding framework for assigning points in a graduate course at YSU. Students are introduced to the rubric on the first day of class, and the rubric is pinned to the top of the Blackboard course shell to remind students of the expectations around class participation and discussion. At the mid-point and the end of the semester, students are asked to assess themselves using the rubric (built electronically) and this determines the participation points they receive in the course.  

  • Process Letters, Self-Evaluation, and Self-Grading

    Jesse Stommel (How to Ungrade) introduces this technique where students create “process letters” and describe their learning over the course of a semester or around a certain project or concept (here is an example of a mid-term prompt and a final prompt). These do not have to be written, and you could consider having students submit short videos or audio recordings, blogs/vlogs, captioned pictures, or use any creative modality they would like to share with your how they engage in the course content and learned the material. Process Letters are a way to assess not just the product, but the unique ways in which students engaged and reflected on their learning.  

    While you can assign grades to process letters, you can also allow students to give themselves a grade at the end of the course. Process Letters are a component of a growing movement in education spaces to challenge the practice of “grading” (also called Ungrading or Radical Assessment). Find out more in Stommel’s blog post, Ungrading: an FAQ.  

    You can also find some great question prompts from the self-evaluation tool at Western Washington University: How to Write a Self-Evaluation