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Gavin Brown 3.jpg

Prof. Gavin T. L. Brown is the Associate Dean Postgraduate Research and Director of the Quantitative Data Analysis and Research (Quant-DARE) unit in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. He is an Honorary Professor in Curriculum and Instruction at the Education University of Hong Kong and an Affiliate Professor in Behaviour Measurement at Umeå University, Sweden.


After 13 years as a secondary teacher and tertiary tutor of English, Gavin spent 9 years as a standardised test developer at the New Zealand Council for Educational Research and Auckland UniServices Ltd. He was the senior project manager for the Assessment Tools for Teaching and Learning (asTTle) software system for the NZ Ministry of Education’s contract with Prof John Hattie. 


Prof. Brown is especially interested in the impact assessment has on students and teachers and how those relationships differ according to cultural and policy context factors. Based on his seminal work on teacher conceptions of assessment, Dr Brown has been actively involved in teacher studies in Australia, Catalonia, China, Cyprus, Ecuador, Egypt, Hong Kong, and India.


Prof Brown has conducted multiple studies on student self-assessment which show, despite the potential of self-assessment to deepen learning, how students distort the validity of their self-evaluations in response to inter-personal social and psychological factors. He is co-author with Dr Lois Harris the 2018 teacher volume Using self-assessment to improve student learning published by Routledge.

Keynote Session

Friday 13 September, 11.30am

Self-Assessment: An Excellent Curricular Practice that Fails Assessment

Student self-assessment is a dual misnomer.

  • It is not about the student’s self, rather it is about the student’s work.

  • It is not an assessment that can be relied upon to show the truth of the student’s work quality; instead humans use self-assessment to protect or enhance their own status.


Nonetheless, the ability to perceive the strengths and weaknesses of one’s own work is a vital skill for learning and life-long participation in society. Self-assessment is a part of self-regulated learning and assessment for learning. Thus, realistic or veridical self-assessment seems to be a skill that students need to develop within the schooling system.


Unfortunately, the ability to reason objectively about one’s own work is not something inherent to the human condition. Humans have a strong tendency to produce ‘my-side’ evaluations, relying on simple factors to defend their judgments. Further, humans are notoriously optimistic about themselves and their work. We place children in classrooms with other children who may discourage truthfulness. Moreover, it is difficult to judge how well one does on complex and multifaceted products, as is much of what we want students to learn at school. Social pressures toward modesty also mean that high-performing students may be unnecessarily pessimistic about their work. Hence, although optimism may get us out of bed in the morning, the ability to see realistically about what is present in our work is what we want. This lecture overviews factors impinging upon the use of student self-assessment in schooling settings.

Spotlight Session

Friday 13 September, 1.30pm

Using Self-assessment Effectively

In order to teach realism in self-assessment, students need opportunities to develop the skill of admitting inadequacies in their work and be rewarded for it. In the academic world, we encourage all researchers (junior and senior) to identify and describe the limitations and weaknesses in one’s own work. The peer review process rewards us for being able to see the weaknesses in our work, because having awareness of limitations supports being accepted for publication. In other words, learners have to learn that not being perfect is ok and rewarded for being able to identify those weaknesses.

Hence, in this spotlight session, techniques for supporting students toward realism in their evaluative judgment will be described and demonstrated. For example, relatively simple tasks such as estimating future performance, simple self-ratings, and self-marking will be demonstrated as means of encouraging honesty.

This session will draw attention to environmental factors that need to be in place to allow and support realism. Where the possibility of ridicule or shame exists, honesty is likely to be sacrificed. Further, when self-assessment seems to matter for future consequences, it is highly likely honesty will be lost. Hence, for self-assessment to fulfil its potential, students need to be rewarded for telling the truth, even when it is embarrassing or possibly shameful.

Participants will be expected to try out various simple techniques themselves.

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