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Establishing Ongoing Student Self-Assessment in the Classroom

Katie Novak
Katie Novak
October 11, 2023

I have seen way too many teachers lugging around huge canvas bags chock full of paperwork to take home and grade. Some have even resorted to moving materials from school to home in carts on wheels to save their back. This is  waaayyyyyy too much literal baggage to be dragging home at the end of the night. Trust me - I used to be guilty of this, too. This traditional model of teachers assessing everything as if students are incapable of self-assessment needs to be challenged.

There are countless pieces of research, books, and TED Talks about the power of self-assessment and reflection. Adults have been engaging in self-assessment and reflection for years, and students should have the opportunity to do the same. If you need a reminder about the importance of reflection, check out one of the resources below. 

  • Hate reflecting? Here's a quick read about why we should make time for reflection and how you can become more reflective by practicing a few simple steps.
  • Prefer to listen? I used Vocaroo to record myself reading the article above. 
  • Is a video more your speed? Watch this TED Talk: Paul Catchlove believes strongly in the power of reflection. Learn more about how a regular practice of reflection can improve your decision-making, career, and relationships.

If students are going to develop into expert learners, they need to track their progress, reflect on their specific skills, and identify areas where they need to spend more time, attention, and work toward improvement. We want students to take an active role not only in their learning but also in the assessment of their progress as learners. Yet students are rarely asked to think about their learning or monitor their progress through ongoing self-assessment. 

When we provide the opportunity for students not only to self-reflect but to do it on an ongoing basis, it helps students to:

  • Appreciate the impact of the work they are doing to increase their knowledge and skills. They will also understand what standards and skills are aligned with their assessments, so they don’t mentally file items as “busy work” because they do not understand their purpose or value.
  • Begin to recognize the areas where they are making strides and growing as well as the areas where they may be stagnating and need additional support. This translates into learners who are able to advocate for themselves by requesting additional help. 
  • Get comfortable thinking about their learning and develop confidence in their ability to improve their skills through hard work and practice, reinforcing a growth mindset! 

In The Shift to Student-Led, Catlin Tucker and I share concrete strategies for teachers looking to shift from a teacher-led classroom to a student-led classroom - one that will increase learning and create more balance for educators. One workflow we shift is from teacher assessment to student self-assessment. (Video)


Here is a form from the book for an ongoing self-assessment - feel free to copy it, make it your own, and use it with your students. Ongoing self-assessment form

How to Use the Ongoing Self-Assessment Form 

There are four sections to the ongoing-self-assessment document. Below are tips on how to best use this resource:

Target Standards/Skills: It’s important that these be written in student-friendly language so learners understand what they are being asked to do. You can encourage groups of students to work collaboratively to review each standard, discuss its meaning, and rewrite it in language that makes sense to them, defining student success criteria. This can be done as part of a station rotation or whole-group rotation lesson. 

Assignment Title: Providing this section allows the student to decide which piece of work they want to spend time assessing. If you are teaching younger students, you can identify the specific assignment, skill, or behavior you want them to assess. Then, they can link to the work if it lives online or include a photo so you can easily reference the work. 

Self-Assessment Score: Included is a simple four-point mastery scale that includes the four stages of beginning, developing, proficient, and mastery; however, if you work with younger learners, you may want to replace the number scale with emojis or other symbols to simplify the self-assessment process. 

Explanation/Reflection: This final section encourages students to reflect on the score they gave themselves, explaining what aspects of their work support their self-assessment mark. You can invite students to complete the reflection on this document, record an audio explanation, or capture a short video explaining their self-assessment. 

Self-assessment allows students to appreciate the purpose behind the work and fosters metacognitive skills. Self-assessment does not replace the need for assessing student work or providing feedback, but it empowers students to drive their initial reflection and compare their performance to predetermined criteria. Giving students that power, those skills - now that’s something to take home with you! 

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