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Learner Perception of Self-Assessment of Online Discussions: An Exploratory Study on Its Impact on Discussions

Jason Vickers (University at Albany, USA)
Session Information
October 14, 2015 - 12:45pm
Learning Effectiveness
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Research Study
Institutional Level: 
Multiple Levels
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Northern Hemisphere A1
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 2

This research investigates learner perception and use of repeated self-assessment of course discussions and gains made from repeated self-assessment.

Extended Abstract

Garrison (2011) discusses how one of the strengths of online learning is the ability of participants to utilize text-based communication, which affords more time for reflection and allows for deeper dialogic exchanges. In essence, students' cognitive presence in a Community of Inquiry is more salient than in a face-to-face classroom. Inherent in the model is the affordance of group discussions with the aim at reaching resolution. In order to do this, Garrison recommends the teacher or a moderator facilitate transitioning from one area of cognitive presence to a higher level. Given student knowledge of the requirements of cognitive presence, it is theoretically possible for them to push themselves through the phases of cognitive presence. This can only occur if the students know and understand how they are performing in discussions. Students know how they are doing in a discussion based on feedback, and this feedback can be instructor-based or, as will be argued in this presentation, student generated through self-assessment.

"Self-assessment refers to the involvement of learners making judgements about their own learning, particularly about their achievements and the outcomes of their learning" (Boud & Falchikov, 1989, p. 529). A majority of self-assessment research focuses on how self-assessment of skills can affect how well students perform on, often standardized, tests (McDonald & Boud, 2003) or improvements in writing (i.e., Andrade, Wang, Du, & Akawi, 2009).

Limited research has analyzed student perception of self-assessment, and less research have addressed student perception of repeated self-assessment and its potential/perceived impact on threaded discussions, which was the approach taken in the current research.

It is important to recognize that the research on perception of self-assessment typically investigated single acts of self-assessment, as with Hanarahan and Isaacs (2001), or dealt with repeated self-assessment that was disconnected from teacher feedback, in the case of De Wever et al.. Additionally, De Wever, Van Keer, Schellens and Valcke (2009) looked at how well students self-assessed their knowledge construction, not how self-assessment might have changed student posting habits and their perception of their knowledge construction. While Kayler and Weller's (2007) work is more in line with the current research, they relied more on Likert-like surveys and less on direct student report during self-assessments. Self-assessment in the current research was recurrent and validated and commented on by the instructor of the course. Self-assessment in this research also required students to analyze how the process of self-assessing assisted them, perceptually, in creating more posts that assisted in advancing understanding, built upon others' posts, and made connections among ideas.

The current research investigates learner perception of self-assessment of online discussions. Additionally, this research asks if and how learners' self-assessments inform their cognitive growth (i.e. ability to advance understanding and build upon others' ideas) in discussions. This study employs a mixed methods approach using 5-point Likert scale and open-ended response items as well as analyses of student self-assessments and online discussions. Of 37 students from three different courses participating in the research, 37 (100%) students participated in the survey.

Students participated in online discussions and were asked after every other module to self-assess their discussion contribution with an eye towards content and quality, mechanics, and APA citation. Self-assessments were, in turn, reviewed and commented on by the instructor. At the end of the semester, students were asked to complete a survey on self-assessments, and permission was sought and received to analyze student course documents. I used qualitative content analysis to deductively arrive at categories and major themes for using repeated self-assessment in online courses.

Findings include:
- Perception of feedback in creating thoughtful, scholastic posts
- Perception of feedback as being beneficial to discussion construction process
- Self-assessment as a means to reflection
- Self-assessment rubric use in creating detailed, cognitively-oriented posts

Practical implications include best practices in using self-assessment to promote higher levels of cognitive presence in learner discussions and ways in which to respond to self-assessments in order to optimize the usage of the tool. Participants will be provided with a 'tool kit' including things to do in order to implement repeated self-assessment

The audience will be engaged through interactive question and answers.

Andrade, H., Wang, X., Du, Y., & Akawi, R. L. (2009). Rubric-referenced self-assessment and self-efficacy for writing. The Journal of Educational Research, 102(4), 287-302.

Boud, D., & Falchikov, N. (1989). Quantitative studies of student self-assessment in higher education: a critical analysis of findings. Higher Education, 18(5), 529-549. doi: 10.1007/BF00138746

De Wever, B., Van Keer, H., Schellens, T., & Valcke, M. (2009). Structuring asynchronous discussion groups: the impact of role assignment and self-assessment on students' levels of knowledge construction through social negotiation. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 25(2), 177-188. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2008.00292.x

Garrison, D. R. (2011). E-learning in the 21st century: A framework for research and practice (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Hanrahan, S. J., & Isaacs, G. (2001). Assessing Self- and Peer-assessment: The students' views. Higher Education Research & Development, 20(1), 53-70. doi: 10.1080/07294360123776

Kayler, M., & Weller, K. (2007). Pedagogy, Self-Assessment, and Online Discussion Groups. Journal of Educational Technology & Society, 10(1), 136-147.

McDonald, B., & Boud, D. (2003). The Impact of Self-assessment on Achievement: The effects of self-assessment training on performance in external examinations. Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy & Practice, 10(2), 209-220. doi: 10.1080/0969594032000121289