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How to Get Students to Accurately Self-Assess

Giving self-assessment assignments, for many choral directors, seems like a ridiculous waste of time. Usually, these directors shun the idea and state:


“My students would never be honest.”

“I’m the teacher. It’s my job to assess them on how they are doing.”

“There are all going to give themselves a perfect score.”



I believe all of these common statements CAN be true. Many teachers use poorly constructed self-assessments and implement them in a way that lacks a reason for students to want to be honest. I will go so far as to say that a teacher who does not believe in the concept of self-assessment has not yet empowered their students to their fullest extent.


It is likely that a teacher would has disdain for self-assessments either uses a detailed grading system that lacks attainability for all students to be successful or arbitrary grading system. The benefit of self-assessment is that students learn to take ownership of their own education. With ownership comes the selfmotivation for improvement.


Self-assessments can be a big game-changer for teachers who are truly looking to empower learning in their classroom.  The three keys to empowerment through self-assessments are: constructing with clarity, understanding the “why”, and grading with grace. Those three keys, as explained below, will ensure your students are set up to honestly self-assess!



Trick or Treat Round – teaches tricky consonants (tr vs dr) – students will love! – 2, 4 and even 8 parts!

Trick or Treat Round by Choral Clarity



The goal of any well-constructed rubric is to offer clarity and specificity of tangible tasks or actions. Whether assessing rehearsal participation, a concert performance, a sight-singing assignment, or anything else, everything on the rubric should be easy to evaluate. If the task is not clear, it cannot be easily and consistently assessed.

Here are some examples of clear tasks:


If assessing class participation, some clear tasks/actions:

-sits in assigned seat immediately before the bell rings

-holds up music when singing

-sings with proper body alignment


Here is my self-assessment rehearsal participation rubric intended for monthly or quarterly use

Here is my self-assessment rehearsal participation rubric intended for daily/weekly use


If assessing a concert performance, some examples:

-arrived on time

-dressed with appropriate concert attire

-was focused during the pre-concert warm-up

-maintained eye contact with director while on the risers


Here is my self-assessment for concert performance

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If assessing sight-singing homework (using Sight Reading Factory, for example), some examples:

-completed the maximum number of attempts

-sang exercise from beginning to end

-performed exercise perfectly/or nearly perfectly


Here is my self-assessment for sight-singing homework




Students must know why those tasks or actions are being evaluated. These tasks/actions must have been set as expectations and communicated in various ways prior to being included as part of a self-assessment. 


Some examples:


When assessing rehearsal participation:

In my choir handbook, there is a list of classroom expectations (arrive on time, be seated in assigned seat with all prepared materials out, hold music up when singing, etc). These expectations are communicated verbally and reinforced daily. I even give an open handbook quiz on these expectations. Not only have I communicated what is expected, I continually explain why these tasks are there for their benefit. I follow up day-after-day reinforcing each task/action along with giving a brief reminder of why they are important.


“when you hold your music up, you can see both your music and your conductor.

“when you demonstrate proper body alignment during the warm-up, you are training your instrument to become consistent in production. Proper body alignment will also help you in the way you carry yourself in an audition, job interview, or when giving a presentation.”


I also positively reinforce these actions. 

“thank you for being seated at the bell”

“thank you for standing up immediately for the warm-up”


After I’ve posted, explained, and positively reinforced these actions, it’s time to put the ownership on the students through self-assessment.


The same can be said for any other self-assessment. When grading a concert, I list all of the expectations by handing out the rubric in advance of the concert. I go over each expectation. Many of these tasks can be reinforced in rehearsals leading up to the concert. In fact, I created a separate pre-concert rehearsal self-assessment that focuses on the structure of rehearsals leading up to the concert. This is the time when music is memorized and students are focused mainly on perfecting their performance. There is more focus on eye contact and less on reading and marking music. This rubric transitions from the learning process to the performance-preparation process as it sets the tone for the clearly-defined concert expectations.

Self-Assessments for Pre-Concert Rehearsals & Post Concert



If we want our students to be honest when self-assessing, we need to create a rubric that allows them to be academically successful without having to be perfect. We can do this quite simply.

Let’s assume we have the following “grading scale”:


In a rehearsal participation rubric, we address tasks/actions such as:


Let’s assume the rubric has 10 tasks/actions that are evaluated. When we transfer this into a grading system, if we make each task/action out of ten points, we will find that all students can self-assess with integrity and honesty while still being successful. Let’s take a look at the grading scale:


Assuming there were 10 tasks, imagine the score of an average or below-average being something like:


10, 9, 9, 9, 8, 8, 8, 7, 7, 7


That score would come out to an 82.


Now, take that same exact rubric, and score it out of 4 points. (all of the time, most of the time, some of the time, and rarely).



The four point scoring system with the same evaluation would turn the same results into the following scores:

4, 3, 3, 3, 2, 2, 2, 1, 1, 1


That score would come out to 22 out of 40. Out of 100, that score translates to a 55: FAILURE


Students will be motivated to be honest when they see that the scoring system has grace. They will be motivated to improve when they consistently become aware their own deficiencies in a clear but non-threatening manner.

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Last Words – Teachers can grade with the same rubric

A well-crafted self-assessment rubric can be used by the teacher as well. If it’s clear enough for a student to self-assess, it’s certainly easy enough for a teacher to use.


Here are all of my self-assessments in one bundle.  If you would like to view them all individually, here is a link to the self-assessment page. The benefit of using mine is that they are already thought out, tested, AND you have the ability to modify it to your liking. With that said, it’s not difficult to make your own. It just involves: clarity in construction, understanding the “why”, and grace with grading!


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