Student Self-Assessment of Essays


Brief description

Students assess their own essays against a list of specific criteria, and give themselves a grade, for discussion with the tutor.

Aims and skills

Improving writing skills: taking responsibility for one's own learning: encouraging positive self-criticism.

Courses used in

All geography courses at Oxford Polytechnic.

What the teacher does

Decide on a list of criteria for good essay writing (see example). Issue these to students, with essay self-assessment forms (see example). Instruct students to read their own essays on completion and assess them against the criteria - then fill in the self -assessment form and give themselves a grade. Interview each student after reading their finished essay and their self-assessment form - discuss why the tutor's appraisal and grade does or does not match that of the student. Agree on a final grade. Insist that no final mark can be given without

  1. completion of the self-assessment
  2. completion of the interview. If possible, get other tutors to agree that this will be a standard procedure for all courses involving essay work.

Problems for the teacher

Interviewing is time consuming. Students may not assess their work objectively against the criteria, but may claim a high grade on the basis of having worked hard, or other virtues. Students, like most writers, find it hard to see their work as others see it, and may mark unrealistically high or low. The method is more effective if adopted as standard procedure on all courses rather than as a one-off experience for the student.

Encouraging students to see self-assessment as an integral part of writing, rather than a mechanical chore, may not be easy.


The Geography Discipline Network would like to thank the Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA) for permission to reproduce material from this publication.

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Page updated 7 July 2000