How to use the honour system for student self-assessment

The JudgeThe honour system of self-assessment is quick, easy to use, and a valuable approach in the classroom. Here’s an example from a leadership development workshop

There is an accepted place for the use of carefully validated psychometric instruments as a contribution to personal learning and development. Such methods have to comply with regulations about preservation of anonymity of data collected, validity of the instrument, and permissions which have to be obtained from respondents completing the instruments.

There is also a case to be made for much simpler means of self-assessment. One of my favourite ways of doing this is through the use of multiple choice quizzes. Examples can be found at the end of each chapter of the new edition of Dilemmas of Leadership, a textbook for executives and graduate students. These quizzes were developed for self-study through the internet. In my example I selected a self-assessment approach out of creative desperation when the computer system failed  during the revision session of a personal development workshop.

The quiz

Each of the students had a copy of the text book with the quiz items in hard copy form. In this example, there is a ‘right’ answer based the contents of the chapter being studied.

Participants were given one minute to read each three item question, and note their decisions (as 1,2, or 3). After the ten minutes, the tutor discussed each of the questions and where the answer could be found in the course text.

I try to make the process of revealing the ‘correct’ results light-hearted, pointing out that the personal score obtained comprises contributions from knowledge, creative guess work, and statistical frequencies. The learning is primarily in the discussion of the various items as covered in the day’s sessions.

That is not to say there is no competition between some students to achieve the highest score. That is another and wider issue which I will not deal within this post. My experience is that even in highly competitive groups, few participants cheat. Perhaps those who do are aware that such behaviours are likely to be exposed by some other equally competitive rival.

If you are working with larger groups of students there are additional benefits to be found in applying this simple approach. If anything, the impact of the revision exercise is higher if the answers are provided by workshop teams or table groups.

Join in the discussion

I would particularly value comments from other LWD subscribers of their views and experiences of using honour-based self-assessment processes


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