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What is self-assessment? Best strategies to promote self-regulation and autonomy

Nhi Nguyen
Rebecca LeBoeuf
Rebecca LeBoeuf
June 30, 2023
Table of Contents

Aside from peer and group assessment, self-assessment is a practical approach to enhancing the student learning experience. Self-reflection and evaluation encourage learners to critically assess their own performance to make adjustments and improvements, thus promoting deeper understanding and active learning. Most importantly, self-assessment enables students to develop autonomy and control over their performance and progress, which is a critical skill required for future professional development and lifelong learning.

In reality, facilitating self-assessment can be arduous due to students’ hesitance, cultural differences, and lack of guidance from instructors. It is therefore important that educators design an effective reflection activity that engages each learner in each and every step.

This article will provide a complete overview of self-assessment: its definition, an analysis of the benefits and challenges, and how to design and facilitate a fruitful self-assessment activity.

A selection of use cases and rubric templates for self, peer, and group assessment, which have been designed and successfully adopted by institutions worldwide.
Join Cole Groom of FeedbackFruits and Patricia Luna of TAMU for an in-depth webinar exploring authentic assessment and how it can transform your approach to student evaluations

What is self-assessment?

Self-assessment refers to the process in which learners actively reflect on and decide if their work has met the given criteria and standards, with the purpose of forming timely adjustments and improvements. According to Panadero an Tapia (2017),

“Self-assessment is a wide variety of mechanisms and techniques through which students describe and possibly assign merit or worth to (i.e., evaluate) the qualities of their own learning processes and products”  

Why use self-assessment?

The implementation of self-assessment can bring about several benefits for both students and instructors. As learners actively reflect on their work, they gain a better understanding of their strengths and weakness and identify areas of improvement. By taking ownership of their own learning, students are empowered to develop a sense of autonomy and responsibility, feeling more engaged and motivated throughout the learning process. Furthermore, self-assessment enables students to develop the skills of reflective practice and self-monitoring, which are essential competencies for future professional life.

In self-assessment, the instructors take on the role of facilitators and moderators of assessment in collaboration with students, which helps to form meaningful interactions and a supportive learning community. By letting the learners take charge of their own learning, instructors can be relieved of heavy assessment loads.

How to facilitate self-assessment?

“The defining characteristic of self-assessment is the involvement of students in identifying standards and/or criteria to apply to their work and making judgments about the extent to which they have met these criteria and standards.” Boud (1995)

In reality, facilitating self-assessment can be challenging due to students’ reluctance and hesitance as they feel they lack the necessary skills to complete the activity. That’s why successful self-assessment requires proper training and guidance for the students in evaluating their own work, along with good and detailed assessment criteria that inform students of what they should focus on.

In the next section, we will dive into the critical components of a self-assessment activity: criteria development and student preparation.

Develop assessment criteria

Self-assessment should always be guided by evaluative criteria, which outline the standards and competencies, products that students should be able to demonstrate by the end of the learning process.

“Multiple external sources can and should inform self-assessment, perhaps most important among them performance standards.” (Sargeant, 2008)

For details on how to create effective assessment rubrics, refer to the following articles:

Besides creating detailed, comprehensive rubrics that reflect the intended learning outcomes, students should be presented with examples of “good” and “bad” self-reflections.

Depending on the assignments, rubrics for self-assessment can vary from self-evaluation of individual projects, and follow-up questionnaires to group contribution and teamwork skills assessment. You can find examples of different self-assessment rubrics types in the resources below:

Prepare students for self-assessment

The biggest reason for the failure of self-assessment is that students don’t feel the importance of completing the task, and can often think they are unable to evaluate their own performance. That’s why it is critical to make sure students have a full understanding of the approach and how to carry out this activity effectively. This can be done with proper training and guidance organized by the instructors. Several strategies can be taken to ensure students are well-prepared for the self-assessment activity:

  1. Develop a detailed, informative syllabus that clarifies the requirements and learning outcomes of the assessment activities, as well as the evaluation criteria upon which students will be assessed.
  2. Dedicate a specific time before the course start for students to study the syllabus and raise questions. To make sure students actively engage with the content, instructors can create interactive study materials activities using several teaching tools.
  3. Once students have studied the syllabus, instructors can organize a synchronous discussion to answer learners’ questions and carefully articulate the assessment criteria on its benefits to students’ learning
  4. Involve students in developing the assessment criteria to encourage assessment literacy and promote a shared understanding of the activities and the required standards. Furthermore, students’ participation in this process will make the assessment and its standards more explicit and comprehensible to them (Rust et al., 2003).

When getting students ready for self-assessment, it is also important that instructors take into consideration students’ diversity regarding their prior knowledge, preferences, and backgrounds, in order to provide timely support to each and every learner.

Provide feedback on self-assessment

Self-assessment can become even more effective for students if they receive feedback from the instructors regarding their reflections. Identifying whether students have overestimated or underestimated their work would be a great motivation and guidance to help them adjust their self-feedback. Studies have shown that self-regulated learners adapt their internal feedback mechanisms in response to external feedback, which means instructors’ feedback is a critical component of self-assessment in promoting autonomy and self-regulation.

Examples of self-assessment activity

Self-assessment of individual work

  • Students are provided with a syllabus that outlines the task requirements and rubrics for the self and peer-assessment activity.
  • Instructors create interactive study materials activities, in which the study content (readings, videos, or audio recordings) is enriched with questions and discussion points for students to respond.
  • Instructors organize a synchronous forum to clarify students’ questions regarding the syllabus and the study content.
  • Once students are clear of the requirements, they proceed to work on the first draft.
  • Students submit the first draft to a review platform where they can provide comments on another peer’s work based on a rubric, at the same time reflect on their own draft.
  • Instructors follow and respond to students’ peer and self-assessments.
  • Based on the feedback in the previous step, students work on the final draft and submit it for grading.
  • Students reflect on the entire writing process: what feedback was useful to them, and which feedback they decided not to implement and why.

For a full overview of how this activity design works, you can take a look at our Individual Report Writing journey, which outlines step by step how to incorporate peer and self-assessment to support the writing process with the aid of teaching tools.

Self-assessment of collaboration skills (group project)

  • Students are provided with a syllabus that outlines the task requirements and rubrics for the self and peer-assessment activity.
  • Instructors create interactive study materials activities, in which the study content (readings, videos, or audio recordings) is enriched with questions and discussion points for students to respond.
  • Instructors organize a synchronous forum to clarify students’ questions regarding the syllabus and the study content.
  • Students complete a quiz individually and then in teams to consolidate the learned knowledge.
  • Students work on a group project in which they need to apply the learned knowledge to come up with solutions to a problem, then present them in class.
  • Students engage in group feedback and self-evaluation of their teamwork skills based on a set of criteria.
  • Instructors provide students feedback on the observed collaborative process, and output of the group work.

Again, a detailed description of this activity flow can be found in the Collaborative learning journey below:

Self-assessment with AI

AI tools can be leveraged to improve the quality of the self-assessment activity.

  • Students use AI generative tools to generate answers to different questions or an entire piece of writing.
  • Students upload their AI transcripts to a self-assessment platform, where they critically analyze the content based on the given rubric.
  • Instructors observe students’ performance via the review platform, give comments on the self-review and provide timely support.
  • Based on the feedback, students rewrite the AI-generated content.

There are plenty of other learning activities in which self-assessment can be integrated. For more inspiration, you can visit our Learning Journey Library, which contains templates to implement different pedagogical approaches and learning outcomes.

FeedbackFruits tools for self-assessment

  • FeedbackFruits Self-Assessment tool: With this tool, students can review their own skills or those of their own group effectively with the criteria & rubrics set by the instructor.
  • FeedbackFruits self-reflection feature: This feature is available within each tool of FeedbackFruits, allowing instructors to add a self-reflection step at the end of the activity for students to reflect on the learning process.


Implementing self-assessment strategies in the learning process adds another layer to the learning assessment process, which helps promote a holistic and student-centered approach to education. Involving students in reflecting on their own progress encourages them to become active participants in their education, thus equipping them with the skills and mindset needed to thrive in an ever-evolving world. In other words, institutions can cultivate a culture of continuous growth and excellence, where students and teachers embark on a shared journey of discovery, unlocking their full potential and achieving remarkable educational outcomes.

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