Supporting self-evaluation: helping language learners take control of the assessment process.

Murphy, Linda (2012). Supporting self-evaluation: helping language learners take control of the assessment process. In: Autonomie und Assessment: Erträge des 3. Bremer Symposions zum autonomen Fremdsprachenlernen (Arntz, Reiner; Krings, Hans P. and Kühn, Bärbel eds.), Fremdsprachen in Lehre und Forschung, AKS-Verlag Bochum, pp. 150–161.



Amid the complex definitions and terminology associated with autonomy (Hurd, 2005: 1-2), two key concepts stand out: critical reflection and decision-making. Both are essential in order to exercise the responsibility which is fundamental to autonomy according to researchers such as Holec (1980), Van Lier (1996) and Little, (2003). However, researchers have also noted a range of challenges related to these concepts: learners may find reflection difficult or resist taking decisions, perhaps as a result of their previous learning experience (Candy, 1991; Ushioda, 1996; Benson, 2001); teachers may find it hard to ‘let go’ and encourage learner reflection and decision-making, not only because of their previous experience, but also as a result of learner expectations (Little, 1995); but perhaps the most serious issue is tension that can exist between teacher support for autonomous language learning and the frequent absence of scope for critical reflection and decision-making reflected in the institutional assessment process.

This paper describes an approach used with part-time, adult distance language learners at the Open University (UK) which sought to enable learners to exercise critical reflection and decision-making in the context of formal assessment. It presents the reactions of learners and teachers and consider the extent to which such an approach can bridge the potential gap in alignment between teaching and assessment which, according to Biggs (1999: 11) can undermine efforts to develop autonomy.

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