Hands of cropped woman teacher grading tests at school.

Limits of Self-Evaluation

Assessment & Evaluation

When I compare the latest educational trends to my own time in school, I notice that it becomes more and more popular to let kids correct and evaluate their homework and exercises by themselves. While this may or may not make sense in higher education, my strong impression is that for most of the younger pupils in our primary and secondary schools, this new trend of self-evaluation does not support them enough in their learning processes.

Hands of cropped woman teacher grading tests at school.When I let my 7th-graders correct their math assignments by themselves, usually three things happen when they discover a mistake:

  • They just mark their answer as correct, although they know it’s not.
  • They mark their answer as wrong and that’s it. They don’t rethink the problem and try to find the right answer.
  • They cross out their answer and write the right solution next to it, without rethinking the problem.

It takes a lot for a young student to go back to the problem and rethink the whole thing to find out why the mistake has happened and how it could be prevented in future. But that’s what we call “learning”. Mistakes can become our “friends” because they show exactly where we have to dig deeper and rethink if we want to move forward. This attitude is not something which is already present in our pupils’ mindset, but it is one of the goals of education. Therefore we have to be careful how and when we implement tools of self-evaluation in our primary and secondary schools.

Coming from higher education, I had to learn the importance of correcting the homework of classes. I sit down with the kids and discuss their problems and mistakes with them. And I let them redo again and again all the exercises that had a wrong answer. This is more time consuming then the wishy-washy self-evaluation thing, but it’s totally worth the effort.

Don’t we all tend to react like those kids, when it comes to our spiritual lives? We read God’s Word and hear his advice for our lives. He calls us to repent, to turn around and follow his path. But when we realize what is going wrong in our lives, it takes a lot to carefully deal with these things. Like the kids in school, we tend to draw the curtain over our mistakes. As believers we have to learn the exact same things as the pupils in my mathematics classes: how to deal with mistakes, how to learn from them, and how to get these two things straight. The Biblical teaching of the sanctuary and the cross shows that God does not take these things lightly. He is not just covering or hiding sin but has a real solution to offer for all our troubles. And thank God that he is not leaving us all alone to self-evaluate our difficulties, but shows us his ways and teaches us his paths. “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” (Psalms 25:5)


Philipp Boksberger is currently the principal of the Adventist school in Zurich, Switzerland. He is married to his beautiful wife Elitsa. They have one daughter who has just learned to walk and is starting to express herself clearer and clearer every day.

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