Empowering language learners with self-evaluation and reflection

young lady practicing speaking by doing self-evaluation

It’s important for language educators to remember that language teaching isn’t a one-way street. Their role in facilitating learning should always extend beyond simply imparting knowledge to a passive audience. It’s vital that educators also encourage students’ participation in all classroom activities and build learners’ awareness of self-evaluation and reflection techniques.

By fostering a culture of introspection, students can be empowered to take ownership of their progress and become lifelong learners. As Tavousi & Pour Sales suggested in 2018 research, successful language learners are then able to develop powerful self-assessment strategies and constantly conduct “dynamic assessments” of their learning and progress.

In this blog post, we explore the transformative power of self-evaluation and reflection in language learning and provide some suggestions of how educators could incorporate these practices into their daily teaching routines.


What is self-evaluation in language learning?

Self-evaluation is the process of assessing one’s own language proficiency, learning strategies and progress. It allows learners to identify their strengths and weaknesses, gain insight into their learning preferences and set realistic study goals. 

However, self-evaluation is not just a measurement tool – it can also add significant value for learning and teaching. In particular, in how it affects learners’ skills of self-regulation and self-efficacy. For Butler 2023, self-regulation refers to a student’s ability to control their cognition, affect and behaviours to achieve a goal. Whereas self-efficacy means their confidence in their ability to perform relevant actions to accomplish a goal.

Butler continues by detailing that self-evaluation helps “promote learners’ self-regulation because it can help them set goals and criteria, monitor their performance, reflect on their performance and internalise the whole learning experience.” It can also be used to improve learners’ self-efficacy by “helping them understand the requirements of targeted tasks, which can in turn improve the likelihood that they will successfully complete the task.”

Other commentators agree, identifying self-evaluation and reflective thinking as powerful tools that support language learners, helping them to stop, step back, think deeply, measure, analyse, synthesise, and make thoughtful decisions (Aliakbari et al, 2019 and Namaziandost et al, 2022). 

In every sense, encouraging students to take a more active role in evaluating their own language skills helps improve learning outcomes. It fosters a greater sense of responsibility and self-awareness, which can lead to increased motivation and engagement.


Embedding self-evaluation in your everyday teaching

There are a wide number of ways in which language educators can encourage and promote self-evaluation to their students. These include:

1. Building in time for reflection and self-evaluation

The simplest way to encourage students to reflect on their work is to give them time to do it in each lesson. Create and include specific procedures for them to do so during the learning process. Always make time for reflection, as well as the chance to then improve their work based on their insights.

2. Create self-assessment tools

Design language learning activities that prompt students to evaluate their understanding of various language components, such as grammar, vocabulary, listening comprehension, and speaking fluency.

Giving students rubrics or checklists can also guide them in their reflections. Ask them to think about the strengths and weaknesses of their answers / work and whether their skills have developed whilst tackling the topic.

3. Peer evaluations

Whilst this may not seem like a form of self-evaluation, reviewing the work of others often helps students more clearly see errors and areas for improvement in their own work.

Try to foster a supportive learning environment where students assess each other’s language performance constructively. This can either take place through a written assessment or via a simple “turn-and-talk” with a classmate.

(Don’t miss our dedicated blog post on peer-to-peer feedback here)

4. Be clear on standards, learning, and project goals

Before you begin to embed self-reflection into your teaching, provide and define clear and achievable goals. Are they aiming for basic conversational skills, professional proficiency or fluency? Establishing specific objectives will provide them with a roadmap for their self-evaluation journey. As students progress, regularly revisit and revise their goals to keep them motivated and on track.

5. Journals and portfolios

A great way to do this is through a language learning journal or a portfolio that showcases students’ progress during a topic or a school year. Giving students the option of doing this in physical or digital form can also be useful, enabling students to jot down their thoughts, struggles and breakthroughs. Regularly reviewing these entries can provide valuable insights into their language journey as well as highlighting progress made.


What impact does self-evaluation have on learning? 

The significant contribution of self-evaluation and reflective thinking is evidenced by a review of available research on the topic. Aldosari et al’s 2023 review identifies three key pieces of evidence in its favour.

  • Porntaweekul et al. (2016) found that such strategies fostered “worthwhile learning outcomes.”
  • Karimi et al. (2017) saw that a group of students who applied self-reflection and evaluation techniques outperformed their peers in the control group.  
  • Similarly, Davoudi and Heydarnejad (2020) noted that students who adapted reflection and critical reflection techniques were more successful than those who had used habitual action and understanding.

Self-evaluation and reflection are transformative practices that empower language learners to take ownership of their learning journey. As educators, it is therefore important to create an environment that encourages such introspection and builds their growth mindset. The power of self-evaluation and reflection can unlock the potential of language learners, helping them to navigate the path to language mastery with confidence and determination.

Whatever language you teach and wherever you deliver your language lessons, Sanako’s market-leading tools are here to help. We’re constantly innovating and looking to use technology to enable language educators to teach languages more efficiently and more successfully. It’s why the world’s leading educational institutions choose Sanako as their preferred supplier to support online and in-person lesson delivery.


If you are interested in learning more about how Sanako products support language teachers and students and would like to see how they could benefit your institution, click here or the banner below to learn more!

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