Self-assessment is when we analyze our own behavior. It is a way for us to understand how we are doing at something.
People who self-assess will examine their current level of performance on a given dimension in order to see how they can improve.
We can compare our performance to a known standard or our own set of goals. That evaluation will enable us to identify our strengths and weaknesses, and help us chart a path of progress.
Self-assessment can be applied in just about any context. For example, we can assess our level of fitness, how we perform during a job interview, or if we are easy to work with, or not.
Definition of Self-Assessment
Brown and Harris (2013, p. 368) defined self-assessment in a school context as a “descriptive and evaluative act carried out by the student concerning his or her own work and academic abilities”.
Making a judgment regarding our own abilities is easier said than done. If we want to know the truth, then we need an objective assessment.
That’s not easy to do when it comes to our own performance, because:
- Some people may have a positive bias about their abilities and give themselves high ratings when that might not be deserved.
- Other people are very critical of themselves and may be overly harsh.
Ideally, evaluations should come from professionals with a lot of training and experience. However, that’s not always convenient and it can also be expensive. So, although self-assessments are not ideal, they are very practical.
Student Self-Assessment Examples
1. Keeping a Diary
If you’re not sure how to self-assess, the first step could be to keep a diary of what you’ve been doing. This is a form of personal reflection that allows you to pause and assess your progress.
There are also some great self-assessment diaries out there, such as the various reflective teaching diaries, that provide prompting questions such as “what is your mood right now?” and “what’s something you did that you were proud of today?”
These moments of self-reflection also act as moments of self-assessment. While you reflect, you also pause to assess your actions and what you could have done differently to change outcomes next time. In this process, you can learn to more effectively self-regulate and incrementally improve.
2. Self-Reflection After a Meeting
None of us want to be labeled as “difficult” or “lazy”. So, after a meeting, it is a good idea to take a few moments and reflect on how we did. Were we attentive? Did we participate enough, or did we talk too much? Were we argumentative and unreasonable, or did we make constructive comments?
One of the most difficult challenges of work is getting along with colleagues. Everyone has an opinion, and everyone wants to pursue their own agenda.
In addition to that, everyone has a different personality. Some of those personalities might be difficult to deal with, day in and day out.
So, understanding how we are to work with is important.
Work consumes most of our lives. Having a successful career is essential to so many other aspects of our happiness. Therefore, reflecting on how we act in meetings can go a long way to helping us be more respectful and conciliatory.
3. Recording Your Presentation at Work
One form of self-assessment that can be extremely valuable is to record our presentations. It can be a sales pitch or product proposal, or just about anything else. There is probably no better way to evaluate our performance than recording it.
We can make observations about our intonation and rate of speech, in addition to our posture and any odd mannerisms we might exhibit. Of course, we can ask a trusted colleague to watch and give us a few insights as well.
Surprisingly, based on some research findings, there may not always be agreement between our self-assessment and what our peers think (Campbell et al., 2001).
4. Filming your Sports Performance
In the same way that you can record a business presentation, you can also record yourself participating in sports to watch it back.
In fact, professional sportspeople and their coaches like tennis players, football players, and baseball batters will all film themselves to see how they performed.
They might be looking at their stance in tennis to see if they’ve got the right posture. In baseball, they may be looking at the position of the shoulders and elbows when the batter swings his bat. These observations can help shape a sportsperson’s self-concept so they have a realistic idea of their abilities.
By watching their actions, the sportspeople can assess their own actions and see themselves from a new perspective. It gives them the opportunity to see things about their actions that they couldn’t see in the moment.
5. Tracking Your Gym Workouts
Recording your daily workouts at the gym is another form of self-assessment. This will help you assess your current status and also help you become aware of your rate of progress.
Back in the old days, people used to carry clipboards around with them at the gym. After finishing each set, they would write down how much weight they lifted and the number of reps. It was also a good excuse to take a breather.
Of course, in this century, there’s an APP for that. Instead of using a paper worksheet and wooden pencil that was made by killing trees and destroys the environment, you can use an electronic version on your smartphone that was made with rare earth minerals and child labor.
6. Tracking Personal Growth
Personal growth is a long-term process. The goal is to make continuous progress over time. That can mean months or even years.
Over time, we can continuously make improvements in our sense of well-being, state of mind, or even our spirituality.
Assessing your personal growth can be on any dimension of life you want. It can be about our sense of well-being, our level of knowledge, level of spirituality, or anything else that is deeply important to you.
First, you determine where you are now and where you want to be in the future. This will help you identify your goals and set targets. Make sure that your targets are realistic and feasible, and phrased in a way that is measurable. For example, don’t just say that you “want to learn more about history.” Instead, say that your goal is to take a university course or read two books on the Roman Empire.
Phrasing your personal growth goal in a concrete manner makes them easy to determine if they have been accomplished or not. Furthermore, when they are accomplished, you can see it, and this will help you build your own self-efficacy.
7. Using a Fitness App
There are so many fitness apps available today that you can find one, or a couple thousand, that will suit your needs just fine.
Generally speaking, these apps fall into one of three categories: nutrition, workout, and activity.
These apps will allow you to become more aware of your nutritional intake, chart your progress at the gym, or record how long and how far you walk or run. Fitness apps are a great way to assess if you are making progress on any of these health dimensions, or if you are just maintaining the status quo.
It’s an example of elf-assessment in the palm of your hand.
8. Participating in a Mock Job Interview
Before going into a job interview, people will often practice in a mock interview to self-assess their performance in order to improve before the big event!
Job interviews can be a bit stressful. There is a lot riding on your performance, especially if it is for a job that you really want. Plus, you only have one shot. If you fail the first interview, you will not get called back for another.
Many universities have career centers that offer students an opportunity to receive valuable coaching regarding their job interview performance. This involves going through a mock interview with an experienced professional.
Afterward, the coach and student will discuss the results together. Participating in a mock interview is a fantastic way to assess your strengths and weaknesses, and just might help you land a great job.
9. Comparing Your Work with Others
One of the best ways to know how good you are is by comparing your performance with others. This is a kind of self-assessment by way of social comparison.
For example, after spending a ton of time on an essay, it is easy to be so immersed in it that you lose objectivity. You may think that you have really nailed it. However, instead of waiting to get the essay back from your teacher, it is a good idea to see an example of a paper that was already completed and evaluated as being very good.
You can then compare and contrast that essay with yours. Maybe the literature review in the really good essay went into much more detail than you thought was necessary. Or, maybe it contained charts and graphs that yours did not.
This form of self-assessment can be very informative.
10. Hiring a Life Coach
A life coach is an expert on helping people get the most out of their lives. A life coach can help someone improve their career, romantic relationship, or even offer advice on how to handle day-do-day affairs.
Every life coach is different, but generally speaking they will construct a very holistic assessment of a client by conducting in-depth conversations with them and maybe even make direct observations over an extended period of time. This will give them enough information to make suggestions and provide guidance. They will even take their services one step further and help the client implement those changes.
So, if you are looking for a comprehensive assessment of your life, something that is also very practical and forward-looking, then a life coach may be exactly what you need.
11. Career Aptitude Test
A career aptitude test is a simple questionnaire that asks about your interests, values, skills, and personality characteristics. It then uses that data to identify different careers that would be a good match to your profile.
It is a great self-assessment tool that can offer some career guidance. You can discover which professions are most suited to your unique profile. The results can be surprising. You just might discover that people like you do very well in a certain job you would have never considered before.
These sorts of self-assessments are often given to students graduating from high school. High school students are at a phase in their life where a decision about what sort of career they want to do is at the front of mind. So, it’s the perfect time to take one of these tests.
12. Taking the Big Five Personality Traits Inventory
A personality trait is a consistent way that a person acts and feels. The Big Five personality traits are considered to be the most commonly occurring. They consist of: extroversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. Everyone has these 5 traits to one degree or another.
Research has investigated how these traits relate to an incredibly wide range of subject matter, from leadership style to quality of romantic relationships and everything in between. Not only are the Big Five consistent across diverse cultures, but they have considerable stability across the lifespan as well (Rantanen et al., 2007).
Fortunately, there are many versions of this inventory available online. Most have reasonable reliability and validity. So, if you wish to conduct a personality self-assessment, there are many options to choose from.
13. Using a Wellness Wheel
A Wellness Wheel is a form of self-assessment that examines all aspects of our life. Most wheels include seven dimensions: spiritual, emotional, professional, intellectual, social, physical, and environmental.
Wellness wheels are very popular because they can provide a snapshot of our current status from a broad perspective.
By examining the status of our life on these seven dimensions, we can increase our self-awareness. If that analysis leads to the conclusion that we need change, then the wellness wheel will show us wear to focus most of our effort.
The Wellness Wheel is an example of a very holistic approach to self-assessment. It doesn’t require a trained professional either, and many versions are available online.
14. Metacognitive Strategies
Metacognition refers to the act of thinking about thinking. It requires you to reflect on how you went about a task and identify pros, cons, and alternatives to the way you went about the task.
For example, if you had just had an argument with a friend, metacognition might involve reflecting on how you lost your cool and started saying things you regretted. You can think about why you followed that thought path, and how you might have been able to de-fuse the situation in the future.
Another example is reflecting on your own learning style. You may have tried to study for a test using reading, leading to a poor test score. Upon reflection, you may realize you were getting very tired when reading; and as a result, next time you are going to try to study by watching lecture videos instead of reading.
15. Taking a Myers-Briggs Test
A Myers-Briggs test is a personality test that can help you to understand your own personality and the personalities of others.
The test assesses you against 16 different personality types, and each type has its own strengths and weaknesses.
The Myers-Briggs test can help you to find out your own personality type, and it can also be used to improve communication and team work by understanding the different strengths and weaknesses of each personality type.
Thus, while the tool is doing the assessment, by self-administering this test, you’re actually self-evaluating in order to learn more about yourself and how you interact with the people around you.
Self-assessment can help us get a better handle on where we are in life or in our profession. Examining our status quo can help us identify our strengths and the areas that we should try to improve.
Self-assessment comes in many forms. It can include modern technology such as fitness apps, or old-school tech like making a video recording. There are also forms that don’t involve any technology at all. Hiring a real live person to be your life coach may be a bit pricey, but it is a long-term strategy that can be personal and totally centered on your needs.
No matter your preference or goals, there are many self-assessment methods available.
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Brown, G. T., and Harris, L. R. (2013). Student self-assessment. In J. H. McMillan (Ed.), Sage Handbook of Research on Classroom Assessment, pp. 367-393. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Campbell, K. S., Mothersbaugh, D. L., Brammer, C., & Taylor, T. (2001). Peer versus self- assessment of oral business presentation performance. Business Communication Quarterly, 64(3).
John, O. P., & Srivastava, S. (1999). The Big-Five trait taxonomy: History, measurement, and theoretical perspectives. In L. A. Pervin & O. P. John (Eds.), Handbook of personality: Theory and research (Vol. 2, pp. 102–138). New York: Guilford Press.
Muntaner-Mas, A., Martinez-Nicolas, A., Lavie, C.J. et al. (2019). A systematic review of fitness apps and their potential clinical and sports utility for objective and remote assessment of cardiorespiratory fitness. Sports Medicine, 49, 587–600.
Rantanen, J., Metsäpelto, R. L., Feldt, T., Pulkkinen, L. E. A., & Kokko, K. (2007). Long‐term stability in the Big Five personality traits in adulthood. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 48(6), 511-518. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9450.2007.00609.x
Dave Cornell (PhD)
Dr. Cornell has worked in education for more than 20 years. His work has involved designing teacher certification for Trinity College in London and in-service training for state governments in the United States. He has trained kindergarten teachers in 8 countries and helped businessmen and women open baby centers and kindergartens in 3 countries.
Chris Drew (PhD)
This article was peer-reviewed and edited by Chris Drew (PhD). The review process on Helpful Professor involves having a PhD level expert fact check, edit, and contribute to articles. Reviewers ensure all content reflects expert academic consensus and is backed up with reference to academic studies. Dr. Drew has published over 20 academic articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education and holds a PhD in Education from ACU.