Self-assessment and self-remediation

Driving down the road listening to the Anne of Green Gables soundtrack with my kids i found myself thinking about remediation in rhizomatic learning again. I have this problem in my classes… and it involves how to explain to people who have literacy gaps that they can go ahead and fill them on their own. I’ve been thinking about strategies for building remediation into my curriculum and then throwing them away as antithetical to the rhizomatic agenda (creating independent learners, preparing people for dealing with uncertainty blah blah blah) and then a term popped into my head ‘self-remediation’.

I don’t know quite why i like the term so much… as remediation still suggests that there IS a curriculum and to some might suggest that that curriculum is fixed and stagnant. I do know that some people seem to have a basic sense of what most people mean by words in a given context and others don’t. I can very well look around my classroom and see that some people ‘get it’ and other ‘don’t get it’. I have also noted that there is often not a perfect 1:1 relationship between people thinking they do and don’t get something and whether they actually do 🙂 So i’m basically trying to give people something they can work with… a strategy rather than content… that can get them ‘in the know’ so that they can participate in the community effectively.

A search of ‘self-remediation’ on the googles brought me to an excellent chapter by Janet Gale from a book Independent Learning in Higher Education (1984). Seems I have company in my thinking. In her tidy chapter she lays out five purposes for ‘self-assessment and self-remediation’ that while they are certainly grounded in a pre-internet world, still speak to fundamental concepts that are as important today as they were in 1984. I’m going to go through them and try to spin them my way…

  1. Overcoming isolation
  2. Gale refers particularly to the loneliness of the independent distance learner, but i would suggest that being ‘outside’ the conversation is lonely whether you are embodied or not. It is easy to forget when you are immersed in a field that many people not only lack an understanding of the meaning of particular words, they are excluded from the context. Addressing this feeling of loneliness as a natural part of the process and something that a person can do something about with focused effort might be just the thing that some students need.

  3. Active learning
  4. The text quoted in this section suggests that “Learning is maximized by an active information-processing strategy which requires the learner to respond to and at times reinterpret the information he or she is being provided with.” Imagine how much more important that is when he or she is being provided with a cagillion more pieces of information on the internet. It seems like a vital transition between passive textbook learning and active internety learning.

  5. Controlling learning behaviours
  6. This one is very interesting and speaks to behaviourist research in education which i mostly avoid. Gale refers to research that shows that testing and feedback mechanisms change the ways in which people choose to learn. And suggests that the critically important question of who’s objectives are to be achieved, the learners or the teacher’s. It is something that i continuously struggle with as a course needs some kind of structure if it is to be called a course, and if people are going to be able to pick one course from another… but ideally those objectives would lean more on the learner’s side than the teacher’s. The introduction of self-assessment and self-remediation strategies (and the way it is done) could further reinforce the idea of student control of learning behaviours and suggest a transfer of power from teacher to learner.

  7. Diagnosis and remediation
  8. I’ve spent more time, i think, on the idea of remediation than diagnosis. The author is very clear that these are separate acts. I think of this as a useful distinction as often discovering that you don’t understand what others seem to does not often coincide with the time required to remediate. Encouraging students to create a list of ‘things i don’t get’ and following it up with strategies of remediation would not only be useful for the learner but for the whole community of leaners.

  9. Student responsibility for learning
  10. And this, of course, is what i want in the first place. The chapter is bound by the possibilities of paper. Much of the discussion is of the challenges of creating pieces for self-assessment that doesn’t include prescripted options. We can, i think, allow people to go out on the internet unscripted and allow them to remediate those things that they have ‘diagnosed’ as something they don’t quite get.

In terms of strategies the discussion focuses on planning self-assessement questions and encouraging uptake. I think i would say, rather, encourage the writing of self-assessment strategies by the students. I’m thinking that this should be included in the syllabus as a structuring piece around student reflection… both reflections in the blog and reflection in their own learning plan.

Teaching students how to make good questions for themselves, to ask them in ways that are going to lead to effective searching and learning, is something that should be overtly done. Taking time to specifically say that people are allowed to look at their own knowing, plan their own path to catch up, and that this will allow them to participate more fully in the community.

Author: dave

I run this site... among other things.

10 thoughts on “Self-assessment and self-remediation”

  1. Denise Drinkwalter says:

    Agree in many points you share.
    Is there a continuum that you perceive to be in existence based on cognitive understanding and levels of metacognition that need to be developed before this can cone to reality?
    I like it and am trying to decipher how it would work for elementary school students- as that is where I strongly feel we need to begin to shift the system and structures within.

  2. Jeddie says:

    I learned (slowly) that I had to create strategies for people to participate in their own learning before being able to engage in learning communities. It took discovering that I had assumed people both knew how to and wanted to participate in learning. I am curious – how would I be able to see what I didn’t know – see the gaps? And once I discovered the enormity of the gap to fill how would I know how to trim down the abundance of content to fit. Could you talk a bit more about the self – assessment piece. thanks Jr

  3. Wizard great post. It took me a while to get to comments because I have been sharing and reblogging

  4. Kate says:

    I’m really interested in the distinction that you’ve made between strategy and content here. So much of what we’re doing in education at the moment is focused on disrupting the way we deliver content, while the way we manage assessment seems stuck in a very outdated model, and this is what locks students out of being able to develop their own strategies for learning. But can we imagine institutions being able to adjust to the idea of learners who can evaluate their own progress?

  5. Scott Leslie says:

    Hey Dave, this is the piece I tried to tackle when I revised my “Becoming a Networked Learner” talk in 2010 (

    My sense is that you are right, that it is a process, one that can be modelled for learners. Along these lines, I think what they are assessing “against” is not so much curriculum but other learners, especially “teachers” and “experts” which, if I’ve understood the connectivist approach (which I may be incorrectly conflating with “rhizomatic learning”) still has a role serving as “models.”

  6. I’m really concerned in the difference that you’ve made between policy and content here. So much of what we’re doing in instruction at the moment is focused on troublemaking the way we deliver content, while the way we run evaluation seems stuck in a very outdated model, and this is what locks students out of being able to expand their own strategies for knowledge.

  7. There are many varieties of assessment tools, easy measuring a particular facet of you, like your interests, skills, personality, and values. Self-assessment tools are also either Self-Directed or Requiring Interpretive Assistance.

    #Self-Directed means the tool is designed so you can use it and review your results without a licensed or trained professional interpreting the data for you. Even though they do not require intervention to read the results, you may still find you have questions. If that is the case, the service offering the tool may offer a way for you to follow-up or you can turn to our list of counseling associations for help in finding a counselor.

    #Tools Requiring Interpretive Assistance mean your results will have to be discussed with a person licensed or trained in this particular tool so you can understand what the data is saying. The cost of the tool will include this interpretive assistance in some form.

  8. Keith Hamon says:

    Thanks for the insights, Dave. Your post focuses on a critical issue that has nagged at me for a long time, but that I have not seriously engaged.

    It seems to me that education is making real strides in shifting its focus from the teacher’s instruction to the student’s learning, but most all discussions that I see about assessment still privilege the instructor or some authority other than the learner. We still want to measure against an outside ruler (in all senses of that term) and not against some internal metric that makes sense for the individual learner and the learner’s community. We’ve not yet developed the vocabulary and procedures for self assessment as we have for self learning, and yet, I suspect that student-centered learning won’t really happen until we have developed the student-centered assessment piece. It isn’t enough for a student to ask, “What do I need to learn that I do not know?” Students must also be able to determine when they have sufficiently learned what they do not know, and that involves some kind of assessment.

    I suspect that an intelligent, self-formed, emergent assessment process will actually feedback into the beginning of the learning process when students first make the unknown known to themselves. If considered early, then both formative and summative assessments can help shape, guide, and inform the self-directed learning from the beginning. Indeed, assessments become a naturally-occuring, emergent property of learning and not some tacked-on quiz at the end.

    I like this, and I suspect I will write more about it in my space.

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