Re-Thinking Assessment: Self- and Peer-Assessment as Drivers of Self-Direction in LearningReport as inadecuate

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Eurasian Journal of Educational Research, n60 p75-88 2015

Problem Statement: This paper focuses on assessment in Irish education, which, despite best intentions, shepherds students through the process to an extent that the individual is prone to undervalue her/his ability to trust in the self as a rational, self-thinking individual. In Ireland's assessment system lies the paradox whereby from childhood the learner develops the habit of depending on "authority" (teacher/examiner) to assess their work, with the expectation that the learner will graduate a self-reliant, achieving person. Purpose: This paper shows how a step away from the traditional form of assessment, beginning at elementary school, can help redress this incongruity. Self- and peer-assessment, in a study with 523 students and their teachers, is shown to be more congruent with developing skills, attitudes and behaviour necessary to help students graduate as self-reliant and self-directed individuals. Methods: These were from the post-positivist/ phenomenological/interpretive family. The study used Action Research from the emancipatory paradigm. Concerned with experience, phenomenological analysis emerged from the interpretive paradigm. Throughout, the quantitative element added a positivist dimension which was a constant aspect, strengthening the research. In accordance with phenomenological philosophy, attention was paid to minority viewpoints, ensuring the study was inclusive and culturally sensitive. Results and Findings: A sociological phenomenon, learning applies to all, and any theory of learning must embrace all learners, in accordance with social justice. During self- and peer-assessment, students developed skills as critical, creative thinkers, effective communicators, collaborative team workers, becoming more personally productive and effective. Their self-awareness and self-reflection increased significantly. All of these aspects are essential components of self-direction. Conclusions and Recommendations: Self- and peer-assessment, a culturally responsive student-teacher partnership approach, serves all ages in any learning context. It is a step toward redressing the balance from dependence on the teacher/examiner to self-direction. Self- and peer-assessment is a sustainable lifelong learning methodology and needs implementing urgently at all levels of the curriculum. This will lead to a reconstruction of boundaries as learners take more control of their assessment and learning. The focus is on "self", learning control and self-direction through the practice of assessing own and peer performance. Ultimately, this creative form of assessment influences, self, community and greater society.

Descriptors: Foreign Countries, Student Evaluation, Self Evaluation (Individuals), Peer Evaluation, Elementary School Students, Secondary School Students, College Faculty, College Students, Skill Development, Phenomenology, Action Research, Inclusion, Cultural Relevance, Self Efficacy, Critical Thinking, Independent Study, Formative Evaluation, Summative Evaluation, Reflective Teaching, Interaction, Student Responsibility, Accountability, Personal Autonomy, Learner Controlled Instruction, Feedback (Response), Learner Engagement

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Author: Harrison, Kathy; O-Hara, Joe; McNamara, Gerry


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