Kathryn Bartimote-Aufflick

  • Encouraging student autonomy: skills self assessment

    Kathryn Bartimote-Aufflick, University of Sydney, Australia

    Session 4f, Tuesday 16.00

    Research seminar

    Themes addressed:

    • Teaching methods
    • Skills development and lifelong learning

    We know from various literature sources (eg Kolb & Fry 1975, Grundy 1982, Boud et al 1985a, Boud et al 1985b, Nicol 1994, May & Etkina 2002, Vince 1998, and many others) that reflection helps the learning process. This may be in the recognition of learning achieved, the act of articulating and cementing learning, or as an avenue for critical appraisal of ones current ability or skill level.

    In recognition of the benefits for students to take stock and assume ownership for their own learning, a model of practice in skills self assessment has been trialled with two cohorts of year two applied statistics students (2005 where n = 87, and 2006 where n ≈ 88).

    The model of practice:

    “before” skills self assessment >> identify two areas you wish to improve >> class activities developed for most frequently cited skills + students’ independent activities >> “after” skills self assessment with reflection

    The “before” skills assessment was completed in week one of the subject, and the “after” skills assessment in week thirteen (the final week of classes for the subject). At each of the times, students rated themselves on the same twelve skills. The rating scale used is shown below:

    • Outstanding [O]: I have a very good understanding of what is expected, and I believe that there is little I can do to improve in this area. This is an area of strength I would promote in a job application/interview.
    • Exceeding requirements [ER]: I understand what is expected in this area and have some good experience or ability in it. There are still some aspects that I could work on to improve.
    • Satisfactory [S]: I have some understanding of the level of performance required by an employer in this area, and some ability or experience, but realise that my skills could improve.
    • Not yet satisfactory [NYS]: I don’t understand all that’s required to be competent in this area, and would not be comfortable promoting this as part of my skill set in a job interview/application.

    In the 2005 “before” self assessment, ‘satisfactory’ was the most frequent rating for problem solving, use of online databases, evaluating the quality of information, goal achievement, leadership, public speaking, and critiquing and giving feedback. ‘Exceeding requirements’ was the most frequent rating given for acquiring literature, using software packages, and assuming responsibility for your learning. The skill of writing was rated equally frequently as ‘satisfactory’ and ‘exceeding requirements’. At this time students most commonly cited using software packages, problem solving, and public speaking as the skills that they would particularly like to work on over the thirteen weeks.

    In the 2005 “after” self assessment, the cohort overall seemed to consider their skill levels to be higher. ‘Satisfactory’ was the most frequent rating for goal achievement, and public speaking. The skill of assuming responsibility for their own learning was rated equally frequently as ‘satisfactory’ and ‘exceeding requirements’. The remaining skills were rated most frequently as ‘exceeding requirements’.

    In this seminar I will present a statistical analysis of the “before” and “after” ratings by students from both cohorts, as well as a thematic analysis of the reasons given by students for differences in “before” and “after” ratings.

    I will also examine the theoretical issues surrounding integration of skills in curricula, and self assessment, as well as reflections on implementation of this initiative from a teaching perspective.

    I am keen to engage in discussion with others who are familiar with the research literature of self assessment and/or generic skills and are willing to contribute ideas on how this initiative could be improved.


    • Boud D, Keogh R and Walker D (1985) ‘What is Reflection in Learning?' in D Boud, R Keogh and D Walker (Eds) Reflection: Turning Experience into Learning. Kogan Page: London.
    • Boud D, Keogh R, and Walker D (1985) ‘Promoting Reflection in Learning: a Model’ in D Boud, R Keogh and D Walker (Eds) Reflection: Turning Experience into Learning. Kogan Page: London.
    • Grundy S (1982), "Three modes of action research", Curriculum Perspective, vol 2, no.3, pp23-34.
    • Kolb DA and Fry R (1975), 'Towards an applied theory of experiential learning', In CL Cooper (Ed) Theories of Group Processes pp 33-57London: John Wiley.
    • May DB and Etkina E (2002), "College Physics Students' Epistemological Self-Reflection and Its Relationship to Conceptual Learning", American Journal of Physics, vol 70, no12, pp1249-58.
    • Nicol DJ (1994), "Case Study: Improving Laboratory Learning through Group Working and Structured Reflection and Discussion", Educational and Training Technology International, vol 31, no4, pp302-10.
    • Vince R (1998), "Behind and Beyond Kolb's Learning Cycle", Journal of Management Education, vol 22, no 3, pp304-19.