I came across an interesting piece on Knowledge Surveys from Edward Knuhfer and Dolores Knipp (linked above).
They advocate the use of Knowledge Surveys as a tool in support of learning and instruction.
These surveys consist of a series of questions - similar to a set of exam questions - but the difference is that the learner is asked not to answer the question but to rate their own ability to respond.
For example - consider the following questions:
Q1 Describe three characteristics of an constructivist theory of learning?
Q2 Compare constructivism with social constructivism?
Q3 Outline practical applications of a behaviorist approach to learning?
Now, in a traditional assessment the student would be asked to write short essays on the above.
With a knowledge survey the student is asked to rate their level of knowledge as:
A - I feel confident that I could answer this question
B - I know about 50% of what may be involved and perhaps if I went away for twenty minutes I could find the missing information
C - I am not confident that I would be able to answer this question at all
Do you get the gist? The knowledge survey gauges a student's perception of their own ability.
Knowledge Surveys may be very useful particularly at the beginning of new courses or topics. A word of caution though - students may not always have or report a reliable estimate of their own ability.