Understanding how we learn best is one of the keys to growth as human beings. This essential metacognitive skill is not innate and must be modeled and taught in school starting as early as possible.

The way it looks for different age groups will be different, obviously as younger students are not always cognitively ready to do this kind of thinking.

However, with the right scaffolds in place, reflection and self-assessment can be a rich way to extend the depth of independent learning and also aid in informing the teacher about valuable data around growth and understanding.

Handing Over the Reins

As we put more and more of the control into students’ hands, it’s not enough to just tell them to reflect or self-assess; it is imperative that we give them tools to do these practices well and then offer many opportunities to practice and get better at it.

Here are some ways teachers can start to implement meaningful self-assessment into classes:

At the beginning of a unit, consider having students set goals for themselves based on projected outcomes and objectives. These goals will drive reflection and tracking of progress throughout each student’s journey.

Scaffold the process by starting off with a google form with a list of questions that walk them through the process of thinking about their learning like:

Wording for these questions will likely be adjusted for the age of the students you are working with.

Weaving in Reflection

It’s a good idea to have students reflect throughout the process. Not just at the end. So consider allowing them to think about each day’s learning as an exit ticket or something they keep in their notebooks for a daily summary. In their own words, they can think about what they learned in class that day and how it connects to something they learned before or how it could connect to other skills or subject areas.

Once students get a handle on these kinds of questions on a sheet or form, ask students to start sharing their learning in other formats, more narrative. Some will prefer to write, others may prefer to use multimedia options like Voxer or Screencast-o-matic.

At the end of major assignments, students should be asked to reflect on their learning and self-assess what they’ve learned based on exemplars and standards. As they are working through assignments, standards should be transparently connected to the learning outcomes and while they are learning specific skills, the teacher should help with the connections to the standards. It makes sense for younger students to rewrite the standards in “kid-friendly” language or if students are too young, the teacher can simplify the standards so they understand, keeping each part simple.

What can this look like?

Self-assessments based on standards should be written like an argument paper (also aligning with the Common Core). When they say they are approaching, meeting or exceeding the standards, the student should show in their work support for this assessment. Where in their own work is there evidence of the skill at work?

Showing students examples of what this looks like and providing them feedback early in the year to develop these skills is also extremely helpful. For example, when I read student self-assessments and reflections, I comment on the quality of each paragraph in the narrative. If they did a good job explaining what was expected on the assignment, I write “good understanding of the task” while highlighting part of the work. If the standards aren’t evident, I might say, “Good evidence of process, but need to tie evidence of learning to the standards. Make sure to review the assignment sheet where standards are listed.” Sometimes I even share student examples if I notice a child isn’t getting it.

A Valuable Tool

Overall, self-assessment is a valuable tool as it gives students the ability to really consider their learning and equally as importantly, share that understanding with the teacher.

Once we understand what students know and can do, both demonstrated in the work and their ideas about the work, we can adjust instruction and/or class pacing as needed. The more adept students become with this tool, the better-tailored class time and assessments can be.

How do you teach students to self-assess? What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned for teaching them to do so? Please share!

*This post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog in June 2016.

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