How to self-assess your learning abilities and why it helps the brain
self-assess your learning abilities

How to self-assess your learning abilities and why it helps the brain

When you look at the world; everything is set up to tell you how you’re performing. Good grades in school indicate you’re doing well, promotions at work entail you’re getting the job done, even your personal trainer at the gym informs you of your progress. It seems as though everyone has a pulse on your learning curve — but you. 

And there’s a reason for this; from a young age, we’re not taught or encouraged to assess our own learning. And because this valuable practice is not incentivized, as adults, we become very passive in the way we absorb information and pursue new skills. We leave the evaluation to someone else; a boss, an educator, a proprietor, etc. And by doing so, we abdicate our role to monitor our own progress — and oftentimes we do this without even realizing it.

This can be seen across the board; from children in school to adults in the workplace. Nowhere is taking responsibility for our own learning supported. 

Wouldn’t you agree that you are the most trusted source when it comes to the self-assessment of your own learning? Wouldn’t it be best to monitor your progress based on your own intrinsic understanding of where you excel and what you need to improve? When we give away our ability to self-assess to an inflated power, this can hinder and slow down the learning process.

Now, this is not to say you should never seek counsel, advice, or help if you feel you need it. On the contrary, those things are crucial for your development. However, it’s important to understand that your thoughts about your learning abilities are just as valid. 

And when you recognize this simple truth, not only will it bolster your determination and resolve, but believe it or not — it will also bolster your brain. 

Self-assessment: why it’s healthy for the brain 

Our brains are amazing! They are complex, dynamic, high-octane machines that help us experience the world. Everything gets put through the mental filter of our mind, and as a result, our minds are tremendously powerful. However, despite all of these advantages, our brains still need time to digest, dissect, and reflect upon experiences in order to learn from them. 

This is a valuable concept to understand, and one that the researchers at North Carolina University have documented in a study from 2014. In this study, it was reported that our brains internalize and remember lessons more deeply when those lessons are reflected upon immediately after the fact. 

The experimenters separated attendees into groups and invited them to answer a plethora of perplexing problems. Upon finishing the first cycle, one group was asked to contemplate what they had just accomplished, and then follow up with a written examination of the tactics they utilized to complete it. 

The results of the study were then confirmed: The candidates in this first group who finished a second cycle of the study performed a surprising 18% better than the candidates who didn’t contemplate in between cycles. 

Now, you may be asking yourself: What’s at play here? What is it about this reflection period that affects performance? 

The experimenters subscribe to the idea that this period of reflection guides us to an emotional verdict — a subtle conclusion of our own capabilities. The contemplation process after the initial cycle that leads to a better performance in the second cycle is a catalyst for greater self-confidence and improved self-perception. 

Our brains literally think more highly of ourselves when we take the time to process things and apply what we’ve learned. 

When you permit your mind to reflect on the things you’ve learned, it is engaged even further, which allows for stronger connections to be made between neural pathways. And this ultimately enables you to retain information simply because of the fact that you’ve given yourself the appropriate time to process everything. 

This is one of the reasons why journaling is so impactful (and effective) for memory retention as well as internal contemplation. 

All of these things coalesce together to create a self-assessment practice that will not only enhance your sense of self-efficacy, but will also keep your mind sharp, vibrant, and healthy. But besides engaging your mind, you may be curious to learn of the other benefits that come from regular self-assessment evaluations. 

Here are a few of the many advantages that come with self-assessments:

5 advantages of self-assessment  

  1. Observing 

We can’t learn if we don’t actively observe and take in what’s happening around us. But yet, so often, we fall into the trap of passive learning. We unconsciously go through the motions without any clear thought process of why certain things take place. One of the cornerstones of self-assessment is observing the process. Being attentive and taking in what is happening, why it’s happening, and how we can influence and manipulate the outcome to get what we want. 

  1. Arranging

Arranging the information and concepts that you learn will play a vital role in the self-assessment process. When learning new ideas and concepts, oftentimes they flow into our minds as vague and abstract theories or opinions. But once we arrange and organize them via a thorough self-assessment, they become more concrete and intelligible, allowing for a better understanding of complex and intricate ideas. 

  1. Bridging

As you begin to evaluate and assess your learning, you’ll notice that mental bridges will begin forming between the new information you’ve learned, and the old information you’ve retained. You will become conscious of the connections between subject matter, ideas, thought-processes, etc. The new and the old will begin to fetter and overlap in your mind and this will allow you to utilize both ends to further enhance your learning.

  1. Leading

Taking the time to reflect on what you’ve learned in addition to what you have yet to learn will give you a stronger foundation for continuing your learning process. This will put you in the perfect position to lead yourself to ensure you keep expanding your knowledge and expertise.

  1. Remembering 

I’m sure you’re familiar with the expression: History repeats itself. This maxim can be applied to your own learning. Many times, we go through the same mistakes over and over simply because we haven’t taken the time to properly reflect and internalize. Self-assessment helps us remember what we’ve learned, this can be a huge time-saver as we can avoid making the same unnecessary mistakes repeatedly. 

10 crucial elements of self-assessment

The point of self-assessment is to become more self-aware. It’s about understanding your strengths and weaknesses so that you know the best and most efficient ways that you learn.

With that in mind, here are 10 elements of the self-assessment process that will help you get on track:

  1. Write down what you’ve learned and what you haven’t 

Taking in information is fine, however, it is infinitely better to record that information so that you have something to refer to later. Don’t trust your memory. Most of the time when we learn something new, it’s in one ear and out the other. By recording it via writing it down, you will always be able to refresh your memory. 

  1. Compare your notes to what you’ve remembered

Attempt to see if your note taking is measuring up to what you remember. If it’s not, then this may be a signal that you should try a different method. Maybe using an app on your phone to record lectures is a better alternative. The idea is to work smarter, not harder, and this means being as efficient as possible.

  1. Find unique ways to test yourself

Discovering if your self-assessment methods are valid is impossible unless you test yourself. Try to do this as often as you can. The more you engage in this process, the more you’ll improve your methodology and the faster you’ll learn.

  1. Monitor your memory

Trying to retain complex ideas is challenging, but it can be done. And one of the best ways to do it is to go over what you’ve learned for a prolonged period of time. Repetition is the mother of skill. The more you expose yourself to an idea or concept, the better the chances that it will stick. You can keep track of your memory retention by keeping track of how often you review your notes. 

  1. Consider your level of curiosity

You may like a course or a curriculum but find it difficult and challenging. And on the other hand you may not have a lot of enthusiasm for a syllabus but it’s easy and simple to understand and complete. Becoming aware of your own enthusiasm for something is a great step in the self assessment process.

  1. Try to transfer the data to other people

If you find it difficult to explain what you’ve learned to others in simple language that they can grasp, then you still don’t understand it well enough yet. 

  1. Conjoin the new with the old

Taking in new information and then connecting to your preexisting knowledge is a paramount step for self-assessment. And this process will be different for everybody. Since everyone has their own unique set of experiences and perspectives, this procedure (as well as the outcome it produces) will be as distinct as the individual who engages in it. 

  1. Evaluate callback in different conditions

You ever wonder why you sometimes stumble over simple questions with certain people (your boss, a crush, etc)? But yet, it’s a calkwake to answer the same types of questions with other people (friends, family, etc)? It all comes down to the conditions — or the context of the situation. You can enhance your self-assessment abilities by testing yourself under different situations and circumstances. 

  1. Make advancement more important

Don’t think of advancement as only being necessary to grades and test scores. Try to look at it as a life skill that will help you make the most of your opportunities.

  1. Compare your disciplined studies to the results you produce

If you have grown accustomed to a particular method of learning, but have yet to produce the results you want, that means something is off in your approach. You need to switch gears and try something different. You should be constantly comparing your study methods to what you’re producing as this will help fine-tune your approach and allow you to make changes if need be.