Principles and Practice of Assessment of Students

Research on peer and self assessment was completed to help increase understanding and to obtain further background information on this topic. The method I used to research this topic was through primary and secondary research. Primary research was through my own learning experience. Discussions with my tutor and observation of tutor led power point presentations; gathering of handouts and through the exchange of information with my peers. Within my own teaching subject, it is a specification that learners are to practice peer and self assessment.

I have had the opportunity to plan my lessons based on this criteria. Secondary research has been through reading my course specification and identifying the criteria needed to meet the peer and self assessment standards. I have also chosen to use the book; Petty, G (2008) Teaching Today. I have chosen to start with this book as the text in the publication is to support my studies and is relevant to my programme of study. This paper will justify the use of peer and self-assessment to promote learner involvement and personal responsibility in the assessment of their learning.

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To support the use of these assessment methods, this paper will look at different theorists and give examples of relationships to theory. Wilson, L (2008) explains that “Both peer and self – assessment generally lead to reflective practice. Both are the ability to judge oneself and involve a critical analysis of the individual learner. Peer assessment is based on learning from each other and is therefore a good way to share ideas and best practice. I agree with Wilson, I would also add that peer and self assessment can be useful to motivate learners.

However, this should be managed carefully, as you may have some learners who use it as an opportunity to demoralise another learner if they don’t get along. For self-assessment I have chose to look at some theories. This first theory this paper will review is the Kolb theory. Kolb (1984) proposed a four stage cycle of learning and within one Unit 3 Principles and practice of assessment Kerryann Kelly 1b of those stages was observation and reflection. The principle of Kolb’s learning cycle is that we all follow the following four stages of learning as we acquire knowledge, experience and skill.

Concrete Experience provides a basis for Reflective Observation. These observations can be distilled in to Abstract Concepts, which are then actively tested with Experimentation. Concrete Experience of the experiments start over the Learning Cycle [pic] The most direct application of the model is to use it to ensure that teaching and tutoring activities give full value to each stage of the process. This may mean that for the tutor, a major task is to “chase” the learner round the cycle, asking questions which encourage Reflection, Conceptualisation, and ways of testing the ideas. The Concrete Experience itself may occur outside the tutorial/mentoring session).

Kolb’s learning style links closely with Honey and Mumfords. Honey and Mumford (1986 cited in McGill & Beaty 1995 p. 177) building on Kolb’s work, identified four learning styles:

  • Activist (enjoys the experience itself),
  • Reflector (spends a great deal of time and effort reflecting)
  • Theorist (good at making connections and abstracting ideas from experience)
  • Pragmatist (enjoys the planning stage)
  • There are strengths and weaknesses in each of these styles.

Honey and Mumford argue that learning is enhanced when we think about our learning style so that we can build on strengths Unit 3 Principles and practice of assessment Kerryann Kelly 1b and work towards minimising weaknesses to improve the quality of learning. It is in my opinion that both Kolb and Honey and Mumford learning cycle rely heavily on concepts of reflection these reflections are then assimilated (absorbed and translated) into abstract concepts with implications for action, which the person can actively test and experiment with, which in turn enable the creation of new experiences – which involves self-assessment.

The second theory this paper will look at is Donald Schon. Donald Schon’s theory was to bring ‘reflection’ into the centre of an understanding of what professionals do. The notions of reflection-in-action, and reflection-on-action were central to Donald Schon’s efforts in this area. The former is sometimes described as ‘thinking on our feet’. It involves looking to our experiences, connecting with our feelings, and attending to our theories in use. It entails building new understandings to inform our actions in the situation that is unfolding.

The practitioner allows himself to experience surprise, puzzlement, or confusion in a situation which he finds uncertain or unique. He reflects on the phenomenon before him, and on the prior understandings which have been implicit in his behaviour. He carries out an experiment which serves to generate both a new understanding of the phenomenon and a change in the situation. (Schon 1983: 68) Infed. org website states that “we can link this process of thinking on our feet with reflection-on-action. This is done later – after the encounter. Learners may write up recordings, talk things through with a tutor and so on.

The act of reflecting-on-action enables us to spend time exploring why we acted as we did, what was happening in a group and so on. In so doing we develop sets of questions and ideas about our activities and practice”. I am a critique of Schon’s theory. Whilst it is an advantage to reflect immediately; learners are very clear on experiences as they have just happened. Time can be a constraint and there may not be an opportunity to reflect. I also think its good practice to have time for conceptulisation – concluding and learning from the experience.

It is of my opinion that Schon’s theory does not give that opportunity. There are many theories and models on self-assessment, which help to explain the process of reflection and the reasons why it’s important. Research for this paper has allowed me to advocate David Bould. (1995). Bould suggests a clear link between self-assessment and reflection; learning only occurs as a result of both processes. In order to learn you have to be motivated to want to analyse your performance and spend time on improving. The advantages of self assessment are that is promotes learner involvement and personal autonomy.

It encourages learners to check their own work before handing it in. Some students find marking their own work preferable to a peer or teacher marking. It can develop understanding and confidence. One way of doing this is with a formative test. Petty, (2008) suggests students complete a test, they then self mark. They are provided with a list of topics and subtopics that appeared in the test, and are asked to, mark each as: green – they understand the topic, red – they do not understand and amber – they are not sure, (also known as the traffic light method).

The teacher then looks through these self assessments. If there are lots of red marks, the topic is reviewed. Learners need to be specific about what they have to achieve and what they need to do to complete any gaps. The limitation is that learners may feel they are doing better than they actually are. Some learners need help conducting what they have learnt. Behaviourist theory suggests that giving feedback whether positive or negative, will enable students to behave in a certain way. Skinner (1974) believed that a learner will repeat a desired behaviour if positive reinforcement follows.

During a session with my students I often allow them to assess each others work, students are always almost honest and do not hold back their thoughts and feelings. This often motivates students to work harder or continue that particular behaviour due to the fact they get praise and can encourage self correction. Another advantage of feedback from peers is that it is generally to the level of your learners and there is no jargon. Peer assessment can be the process of marking another’s work. Petty (2008) suggest that the advantage of this method is Unit 3

Principles and practice of assessment Kerryann Kelly 1b that it allows students to see alternative ways of answering questions; “they see model answers or worked solutions and have to study them closely during the marking. This makes the goals clearer” I agree will Petty, this is a very effective way to learn. Peer assessment is advantageous as it allows learners to reflect their own learning. If a learner peer assesses and realise they have made a mistake themselves, it is a helpful way to identify and reflect on your own work. Many students enjoy this method.

It is a good way to support each other constructively. Discussion between peers is also a good way of generating ideas. It empowers learners to improve. On the other hand, as previously stated, when working with mainstream students, they may not always be honest when assessing each others, worrying in case they upset their peer or being bias because they have issues with the student they are assessing. There can be problems with the validity and reliability of assessment done by students. This can be improved if you ask the learners to use clear criteria, having clear learning objectives.

In conclusion, this paper has described some examples of relevant use of peer and self-assessment. Both peer and self-assessment lead to reflective practice. Both are concerned with the ability to judge oneself and involve a critical analysis of the individual learner.


  1. Unit 3 Principles and practice of assessment Kerryann Kelly 1b Black and William assessment for learning (1998), Available from www. teachingexpertise. com [Accessed 03 June 2010]
  2. Gravells, A (2009) Principles and practice of assessment in the lifelong learning sector, Learning Matters Kolbs learning style (1984), Available from www. usinessballs. com [Acessed 03 June 2010]
  3. Nicol D (2004), Available from http://www. heacademy. ac. uk/assessment/ASS051D_SENLEF_model. doc [Accessed 04 June 2010] Petty, G. (2004) (3RD Edn)
  4. Teaching Today. Nelson Thornes Petty, G. (2008) (3RD Edn) Teaching Today. Nelson Thornes Wiggins, (1997), Available from http://www. heacademy. ac. uk/assessment/ASS051D_SENLEF_model. doc [Accessed 04 June 2010]
  5. Wilson, L (2008) Practical Teaching A Guide to PTTLS & CTTLS: Melody Dawes (publishers) Ltd

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Principles and Practice of Assessment of Students. (2018, May 16). Retrieved from