Exploring alternative assessment: a democratic approach to student self-assessment in a reading methods class

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Virginia Tech

The purpose of this study was to explore student self-assessment in a reading methods class. The study is the result of my interest in alternative assessment practices in teacher education; specifically, I am searching for ways to eliminate the barriers often found in traditional assessment that inhibit constructive relationships between student learning and assessment processes. I selected an ethnographic method to capture the meaning of student self-assessment as the instructor and the preservice teachers were living the experience. Primary data collection sources included a survey questionnaire, interviews, field notes, various site artifacts and journals. All data were transcribed and coded for themes.

The results of the study illustrate how the instructor's approach to student self-assessment is important as it represents the conditions and context necessary to promote student self-assessment. The instructor's approach consists of five properties: class climate and management, small group work, task approach, theory and practice, and student assessment. The way the preservice teachers managed and responded to student self-assessment is delineated in the section on the students’ approach to student self-assessment. Their approach is defined by four properties: participating in small group work, engaging in ambiguous tasks, receiving and giving feedback, and reporting self-assessment. Finally, the study presents the factors influencing student self-assessment and a model of a democratic approach to student self-assessment practiced in the class.

The conclusions of this study suggest that the students’ approach to self-assessment is linked to the instructor's approach in a complex way. The instructor's approach in the reading methods class creates the context in which the preservice teachers integrated the methods class and their field-placement experience, engaged in critical inquiry, generated the criteria for their work, received and gave feedback, revised their work, analyzed their work and participated in a democratic learning environment. The interpretations of this study imply that the alternative assessment practices used in the reading methods class studied represent one way to promote professional learning, since it enhanced the preservice teachers' becoming empowered, informed decision-makers, and independent learners.