The Role of Self-Assessment in Professional Development

Self-assessment is a powerful tool that encourages learners to take responsibility for their own learning. Taking a moment to reflect on learned content and future application supports retention and promotes metacognition. I have used self-assessment with my students with great success. As I pondered what angle to approach ISTE Coaching Standard 4B this week (Design, develop, and implement technology rich professional learning programs that model principles of adult learning and promote digital age best practices in teaching, learning, and assessment.), it struck me that I’d never been asked to assess myself following a professional development session. This realization led me to wonder what role self-assessment could play in effective professional development.

Self-assessment Process

Self-assessment is a three-part process. The first step requires reflection on the intended learning goals of a class, presentation, concept, etc. Juvenile learners may need to be prompted to reflect on a particular goal while adult learners should be able to pull out key points. Next, the learner should evaluate their own learning in conjunction with the goal: Was the goal met; how do you know? The final piece is reflecting on future learning: How will I apply this knowledge in the future? This is a simplified example, but I’ve found that most self-assessments follow this general structure.

Source: Dorothy Spiller Assessment Matters

Professional Development Applications

Despite research supporting the efficacy of self-assessment, few resources exist linking self-assessment explicitly to professional development. The research outlined below deals with two aspects of self-assessment: the type that happens immediately after a professional development session and a more extensive self-assessment that occurs later once teachers have had a chance to implement the knowledge. While a bit aged (1999), the rationale behind the study is solid and the results show that self-assessment can support teachers in implementing new content and strategies from workshops into their classroom practices.

The professional development at the focus of
this study was entitled PEERS (Promoting Educational Excellence Regionally and
Statewide) and was developed by the Nebraska Math and Science Initiative. The
stated purpose of the PEERS 2-week long workshop was “to increase teacher understanding
of mathematical and scientific processes, improve teaching methods in math and
science, and create a supportive network for systemic change in the state.”
(Wise et al., 1999) Teachers were placed into groups by grade-level and
sessions were created and hosted by lead teachers who had undergone 5-week
residential training institutes. Goals, activities, and lessons were tailored
by grade-level. Participating teachers attended an additional follow-up session
once the school year began.

As with many professional development
workshops, teachers were asked at the end to evaluate the workshop’s
effectiveness of meeting intended learning goals. While the immediate feedback
was positive, the study’s authors recognized that this feedback “indicated that
they were effective in delivering the intended content and experiences…this
evaluation provided only indirect information regarding the extent to which
teachers can use these new skills in their classrooms. It provided no
information concerning whether the teachers had translated their workshop
experiences into their classroom practices.” (Wise et al., 1999) This is such
an important distinction to make!

To gather a complete picture of the effectiveness of the PEERS workshops, facilitators conducted a follow-up in the form of open-ended reflective questions. The questions were purposely designed to not copy the wording of the immediate assessment. Instead, evaluators coded the open-ended responses based on whether a workshop strategy was ‘explicitly stated or easily inferred.’ The following eight questions were used by teachers as a self-assessment:

  • 1. Please describe the new lesson/unit or teaching strategy you tried.
  • 2. How does this lesson/unit relate to the national standards or Nebraska frameworks?
  • 3. What were your objectives/goals in the lesson or strategy you used? (Why did you decide to use a new strategy or lesson?)
  • 4. Did students respond differently than in a typical lesson?
  • 5. What evidence did you see of differences in student learning or student attitudes? (Student comments? Student work? Assessments? Attach examples if desired.)
  • 6. Will you do this lesson again?
  • 7. What modifications will you make and why?
  • 8. What have you learned from this experience?

The following table shows the percentages of teachers across high school, middle school, and elementary who implemented aspects of the workshop goals into their classrooms:

Source: Vicki Wise et al “Using Teacher Reflective Practice…”

While many of the results were very
encouraging, this study is also interesting in terms of the gaps that exist
between immediate self-assessment at the end of a workshop and later
implementation. For example, 84% of high school teachers reported at the end of
the PEERS workshop that they were able to implement technology successfully
into lessons. After the later reflection, only 48% of those teachers had
actually made a change based on the workshop and included technology in a

Another benefit of this study is seeing a conclusive link between professional development and classroom practice. As stated by the authors, “This reflective practice approach to evaluation provides a clear link between a significant professional development activity and classroom practice.” (Wise et al., 1999)


Spiller, D. (2012, February). Assessment Matters: Self-Assessment and Peer
Assessment. Retrieved February 19, 2019, from University of Waikato

Wise, Vicki L.; Spiegel, Amy N.; and Bruning,
Roger H., “Using Teacher Reflective Practice to Evaluate Professional
Development in Mathematics and Science” (1999). Educational Psychology
Papers and Publications. 184.

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