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Strengthen the student's ownership of the learning process

Last updated on 26 November 2021
To strengthen ownership of the learning process, you can give students choices in how to do their assignments, or use self-assessment. This promotes their involvement in the educational process. In this didactic tip we describe four practical ways to do this.

Tip 1: Provide different response options for assignments

In preparation for a class, students often have to read a chapter from a book or article and hand in a response (e.g. summary or reflection) of 250 words. In a previous tip, you could read more about how to encourage self-study. This tip expands on that: let students make their own choice on how to hand in their assignment. For example, in the form of a short audio or zoom recording or a diagram or argument scheme. Canvas assignments can easily be set up to accept different types of submissions, such as media files, URLs, and multiple document types. 

However, please note that you should not use this option for assignments that result in a (partial) grade. This is because grading different types of assignments for the same grade, can lead to discussions about the grading criteria and fairness for the students (Fulton, S., & Schweitzer, D., 2011).

Tip 2: Offer elective assignments

Another possibility is to offer the students several self-study assignments per week that are worth different points. Students must accumulate a certain number of points by the end of a period but can decide for themselves in which weeks they will carry out bigger or smaller assignments. As a teacher you can offer two or three assignments of different grades per week, for example. You can make variations by asking for more elaborate explanations or by collecting more examples. And keep your grading scheme simple.

Tip 3: Let the students come up with final assignments

If the students are going to be assessed with a written exam at the end of the course, let them help write the assignments for it! Have students, individually or in groups, write one or two potential assignments at the end of each week or theme. This way, you can also see whether the students have understood the topic, or whether they are asking big questions about a less important detail. It also helps the students to review and remember the information and to feel more confident about the assessment. Of course, students won’t know which questions will end up in the final exam! 

Tip 4: Self-assessment

Let students assess themselves, in a group or individually. Give them the assessment instructions (or the rubric) and ask them to choose the descriptions that best suit their work and to include evidence or explanations for this. Self-assessments of course, must be checked by you as the teacher, if marks are to be awarded. Research shows that self-assessment (and peer assessment) increases student engagement in the learning process.

Digital support 

Mentimeter can be used to collect and discuss potential essay or exam questions anonymously, and to export them as PDF files.

FeedbackFruits Peer Review is the best way to support the self- and peer feedback process. This tool is included in Canvas and is intuitive to use for both teachers and students. Read all about this tool on the Online Education website.


This teaching tip is provided by VU NT&L and LEARN! Academy.