Self-Assessment in the dance class …is it necessary?

Children self-assessing in the Primary dance class involves them in their own learning. It encourages independence, self-sufficiency, and sets them up to be lifelong learners.

Self -assessment helps children make sense of the process of assessment and learning, not just the content. In dance this is essential as they begin to understand the reflective nature of making dance, performing dance, and responding to dance.

self-assessment ideas

In this article I am not asking you to agree with all of the ideas expressed, but rather consider self-assessment as an important part of your lesson planning process. Embrace it as an idea to be explored as a part of your dance teaching toolkit.

Student self-assessment … promises to increase students’ responsibility for their own learning and to make the relationship between teachers and students more collaborative.          (Lorrie Shepard, 2000.)


What is self-assessment and why you should use it

Self-assessment helps children make connections between their learning, performance, and success criteria through self-reflection. It is an important part of formative assessment in Primary/Elementary school.

Using self-assessment encourages teachers to create learning opportunities that are relevant to their student’s learning. It provides important feedback for teacher who can respond to the immediate needs of their students.

By connecting their dance learning experiences, the formative nature of self-assessment ensures that the learning is cumulative. It makes it clear to the students that how they have reflected on their own work will improve each step of their learning journey. Prior feedback supports improvements in understanding and application of skills.

For students, it demystifies assessment. It encourages them to be brave enough to reflect honestly on their own success.

It helps students learn a common language about assessment to support learning through feedback from peers and the teacher. Students learn how to accept and use feedback.

Self-assessment is a non-threatening, non-judgemental assessment tool which focuses on the learning process and allows students to pace their efforts according to their level of attainment and build up from there. It accommodates a diverse range of student readiness, experiences, and backgrounds.           (Maddalena Taras & Hwei Ming Wong 2023)

By using self-assessment, we give students signposts for the progression of their learning. It helps children decide if they are on the right track or if they need assistance from peers or teacher input.

All this adds to student confidence as they know what is expected of them. Why they have to do it. How they have to do it. And what tools are required.

This is particular pertinent in dance where many students can struggle with knowing what is appropriate for assessing dance. This can exacerbate by the prominent cultural image of dance as competition. The use of exemplars for self-assessment can be useful in dispelling these misconceptions.

Self-assessment in the dance classroom

It is important for students to see examples of mastery. Showing the importance of reflective self-assessment in professional dance practice is crucial at all levels.

Example could include showing dance artists’ works in progress, or artists discussions as they reflect on their own work. This may be in the form of live demonstrations or videos.

Seeing themselves as their own editors, not just in response to outside voices but as their own problem solvers, is a part of learning about artistic practice. Seeing models of how dance artists use feedback is an important part of this self-actualization process.

self-assessment in dance

It is essential that children develop the specific vocabulary necessary to respond to the assessment criteria. This involves developing a technical knowledge about dance. Word Walls, Elements of Dance knowledge and style specific words are all part of this specialized vocabulary.

Students also need guidance and training in how to use self-assessment. Treating peers with respect, giving constructive feedback and compliments, and clear examples of what could be improved is part of the skillset needed.

With practice they learn that when working with peers, compliments without solid justification does not encourage improvement. Also, that vague or hurtful language is not helpful.

It is not about being right or wrong but more about using visual thinking. Describing and interpreting what they see. Being concise, brief, and direct is important to the clarity of their ideas as they assess themselves and respond to other’s work.

However, the success of self-assessment as a learning tool can be affected by a lack of confidence. (Taras & Hwei Ming Wong 2023) As they are developing greater trust in their own judgement, it should be made clear that this is formative assessment and will not affect their final grading.

When grading their own work, they need to justify their choices. Ideally, this should be clarified and practiced in other learning areas as well as in the dance classroom.

dance appreciation

Successful Self-assessment in the Primary dance classroom

Here are some ideas for establishing self-assessment practices in your dance classroom.

  1. Provide a clear introduction for your students to self-assessment. This includes explaining the benefits as outlined above.
  2. Giving children easy to understand assessment criteria. As they grow in expertise they can assist in developing these criteria.
  3. Teaching children how to use the criteria. This involves specific understanding of any unknown vocabulary (including assessment and dance terminology).
  4.  Providing self-assessment examples that clearly demonstrates the difference between achievement levels.
  5. Specifically designing tasks using self-assessment that provide explicit feedback for students.
  6. Providing multiple opportunities for self-assessment so students can practice using it as a way of gaining feedback and improve on their own learning.                    (Taras & Hwei Ming Wong 2023)


Student Self-Assessment is different from assessment because Student Self-Assessment builds on the complex picture we have of ourselves as individuals; of what we can do, what we want to do and what we hope to achieve, whether consciously or unconsciously.         (Taras & Hwei Ming Wong 2023)


Setting up your classroom for self-assessment

These ideas are fundamental to all dance classroom however they are particularly important when establishing self-assessment tasks.

  • Good relationships within the classroom between peers and with the teacher
  • Clear communication about the goals of the task and the assessment.
  • Trust as a foundation within the classroom.

Student questions for dance self-assessment success.

The structure of these self-assessment tasks should encourage students to revise, reassess and go again. It should happen as a part of pre-work discussion, during the process and at the completion of the task.

Students’ self-assessment may not always be accurate. However, the discussions that follow can lead to clarity about what is expected and valued. It helps children to understand more about how they choreograph, perform, and respond to dance.

Feedback for peers and teachers during these discussions should raise more questions and elicit more responses. These are evolving ideas not set in stone.

Some questions that students may find useful include,

What are my strengths and weaknesses?
How am I doing?
Am I learning in the best way for me?
What is really making me think?
How will I know if my work is good?
What do I need to do to improve?
How am I going to make this improvement?
Where are my targets?
Where should my focus be?
What can I remember and understand?

Self-assessment allows students to experiment, reflect and improve. When done regularly and consistently it enables children to trust the process and improve.

It is useful for teachers to keep a diary of how they use self-assessment and the kinds of responses that come from these activities. Talk to other teachers about how they use self-assessment and its impact in their classroom and see how it could apply to dance.

Don’t expect students to be wonderful at it in the beginning. It is just another step on their journey to understanding themselves and how they learn.


Shepard, L. (2000). The role of assessment in a learning culture. Educational Researcher , 29 (7), 4– 14.

Taras, Maddalena, and Hwei Ming Wong. Student Self-Assessment: An Essential Guide for Teaching, Learning and Reflection at School and University, Taylor & Francis Group, 2023. ProQuest Ebook Central,