Who needs Lecturers anyway? Learning how to learn through self-assessment and self-regulation: a case study

  • Who needs lecturers anyway? Learning how to learn through self-assessment and self-regulation: a case study

    Leanne de Main, Strategy and Applied Management, Coventry University Business School, Coventry, UK

    Tina Bass, Strategy and Applied Management, Coventry University Business School, Coventry, UK

    This research focuses on developing support for mature students enrolled on a Masters Degree in ‘Management by Work-Based Learning’. Over the last 15 years the Masters has evolved and now uses a number of innovative pedagogical practices. The course follows an open curriculum and self-directed study in the field of management with students identifying and negotiating their own learning objectives through a learning framework. Learning is facilitated through a blended approach with study days, Action Learning Sets, formative and peer feedback and Virtual Learning Environments (VLE). The cohort consists of students who are at middle/senior management levels in organisations from a variety of industries. All demonstrate high levels of experiential learning and professional knowledge but have had limited opportunities to demonstrate academic scholarship.

    This academic year, student self-assessment has been piloted, with students now responsible for their learning from the outset through to completion.  Comparisons between the students’ and tutors’ assessment grade range from -14% to +45% from a sample of 12 students. The subsequent student interviews and reflective diaries contain rich qualitative data on the effects of this pedagogical approach to academic and working practice. This is further discussed in the full paper.

    The aim of this programme is to bring about personal change in students views of their own practice in addition to making improvements, through research, to their organisations at a strategic level. Why should we be committed to self-direction or self-assessment? Dickinson (1987) suggests several reasons: that self-direction is a process of learning how to learn; it encourages learning efficiency; and it increases motivation. Self-directed study encourages learners towards evaluation which is the pinnacle of Blooms’ cognitive domain, ‘the making of judgements about the value, for some purpose, of ideas, works, solution methods, materials etc.’ (1956:185). The traditional, more structured types of assessment create learner-dependency. Heron argues that ‘unilateral control and assessment of students by staff mean that the process of education is at odds with the objective of that process... a person who is self-determining who can set his own learning objectives, devise a rational programme to attain them, set criteria of excellence by which to assess the work he produces and assess his own work in the light of those criteria’ (1980: 57-58).

    Sitzmann et al. (2010) conducted a meta-analysis establishing that the relationship between self-assessments of knowledge and cognitive learning was stronger in classroom instruction and blended learning than in Web-based instruction alone. When learners detect a discrepancy between their self-assessments of knowledge and desired performance, it triggers search behaviours and may result in learners focusing their attention on the behaviour of others (Bandura 1977). Evidence to support this was identified in our research findings.

    Whilst studies of self-assessment have evolved over the years, there is a limited amount of research into its use in improving student learning within business and management fields, furthermore we must consider whether self-assessment should be formally linked to course grades. We also recommend further research in understanding how self-assessment skills can be enhanced for lifelong learning.