Skip to main content

Developing self-assessment as inclusive practice in the School of Design

Design for Delivery
Special Series - Inclusive Assessment

What did you do, why did you do it?

We introduced self-assessment as an element of formative assessment, following Boud's observation that this practice "gives a message to students that such activities are considered an important aspect of learning and that it is worth spending valuable time on them,"(Boud, 1995, p.40). This innovation was made partly in response to NSS feedback where inconsistencies with the nature of feedback were perceived by students. The aim is to make assessment methods more transparent and to make student experience of formative feedback more inclusive and consistent across the school.  

We have begun to standardise the practice of introducing a discussion around the assessment rubrics in each module in week one of teaching. This means that all students have the opportunity to think about the differences in the criteria and what is required for each grade band from the outset. This can help students focus on their goals, and to ask for any clarification on what is expected in the learning outcomes. This use of criteria to enable students to measure performance capitalises on the existing assessment frameworks which are surfaced in the activity of self-assessment using a "structured written schedule" (Boud, 1995, p. 195) given to students in advance.    

A standardised self-assessment exercise is delivered in all modules at a halfway point in the assignment. The self-assessment form is provided on Minerva and students are asked to complete the exercise ahead of formative feedback tutorials. The form is based on each module’s rubric and asks the student to position their work so far (based on an extract of work in progress). A tutorial discussion follows where students share the work they have evaluated and say what grade/s they gave the work and why. This active learning facilitates discussion around what could be done to improve the work, and surfaces how not meeting some criteria may hold the work back. This work supports students as "autonomous learners" (Boud, 1995, p.41) and provides them with experiences that are essential for professional practice.  

In my module the tutorials are held on MS teams with groups of 6-8 students. All of the group can see the work that is shared which normalises the struggle of writing, and allows students to see/hear feedback points that are common to all. Online tutorials also encourage peer feedback as students were asked to reflect on the self-evaluations of their peers.  

This formative feedback is followed by summative feedback sheets using the same rubric format advising students on what they did well, what they need to improve and a final feedforward for future assessment. Guidance has been provided for module leaders on the tone and length of comments to provide consistency.  

What was the impact of your practice and how have you evaluated it?

Student feedback in my module has been that verbal explanation of rubrics is helpful/more inclusive as they have previously struggled to interpret the rubric format and/or its language. The practice also draws attention to how work is assessed when previously this information may have been left in the handbook.  

The peer evaluation has been enlightening as students in my module have addressed their peers under-evaluation of the work, giving reasons for revising up their peers self-assessment, based on the rubrics.  

Module Evaluation comments from students:

“I especially found the tutorials benefitting as they enabled us to engage with others on the course, and understand how we were getting on.”    

“The feedback we received as we went along was really helpful as it allowed me to keep up to date with the assignments and benchmark my own work based on feedback and self–assessment 

“The feedback was also constructive, as were the tutorials with XXX where we showed her parts of our draft.” 

The benefits of self-assessment are that it encourages learners to take an active role in their learning. Self-assessment challenges the idea of marking as subjective and of the tutor as the single point of knowledge. It demonstrates, in a practical, independently undertaken activity, how the work is assessed i.e., using criteria which have been discussed at the outset of the module.  Learners' independent assessment of their work is then confirmed or challenged (by tutors and peers) in the safe space of previously established small group setting, in this case online. In the module above this led to spontaneous peer assessment, which is an indication of the successful establishment of a space to share.  

This is an inclusive approach as learners have time to prepare and choose the material that is shared in advance of the group tutorial. Learners who do not have the confidence to share work in progress can see the benefits of gaining specific support, but can also draw from the feedback that is relevant to all e.g. on the use of sources or referencing. This is a surfacing skills exercise as well as self-assessment. 

Incorporating self-assessment could benefit many disciplines, not just the Arts and Humanities. Indeed, Boud's examples are drawn from the fields of electronics, engineering design, law and education (Boud, 1995, p.10).  



Helen Clarke ,, School of Design (Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures)

Do you have an example of your practice to share?

If you are interested in submitting an article to the TIPS Blog find out how to submit here, or contact the TIPS Editors at