Students’ Self-Assessment and Reflection

Do you have ideas on how to help my middle school students become more thoughtful, independent learners? —J., Michigan

In my experience, self-assessment and reflective activities gave students ownership in their learning.

Self-assessment is more than students “correcting” their own papers. When students self-assess, they reflect on the results of their efforts and their progress toward meeting the learning goals or performance expectations. They examine their work for evidence of quality and decide what to do next.

But if you ask middle school students to “reflect,” you may get puzzled looks or blank stares. Students don’t necessarily have this skill. They may initially think that an assignment or project is good simply because they spent a lot of time on it, they enjoyed it, or they worked very hard on it.

Students may need to be taught strategies for self-assessment through examples and practice. Take a piece of student work (with no name on it) and guide students through the process of comparing the work to the rubric. You may have to do this several times before students feel comfortable critiquing their own work.

Share with students how they could reflect on their own learning with responses to prompts such as: I learned that… I learned how to… I need to learn more about… It’s very powerful if you share your responses to your own work. , too.

In their notebooks, students could reflect on their work with prompts such as From doing this project I learned… To make this project better, I could…or Our study team could have improved our work by

Honest self-assessment and reflection are difficult processes, even for adults. But they are valuable tools for developing lifelong learners.

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3 Responses to Students’ Self-Assessment and Reflection

  1. Hyman Zucco says:

    I found your post accidentally but i’m pleased i’m here. Good stuff i’m reading.

  2. Andrew Black says:

    Ms. Mary Bigelow:
    My name is Andrew Black I am in my third year at Wartburg College while studying elementary education.
    I was wondering if you had any prompts that worked best with the students or what your go to methods of assessment are? When letting students reflect and self assess how do you hold them accountable and make sure they are fulfilling their role and being responsible. Would you have middle school self assess the same as elementary students or would you differentiate the process between the two?
    I do like the prompts that you have included but what are some questions the students generally have when self assessing/ reflecting? I also like how you included that a students investment could impact the way that they view and assess their work. I really like the content of your post and think its important to include in the classroom.
    Thank you!
    Andrew Black
    Wartburg College ’21

    • Mary Bigelow says:

      Hi Andrew!

      You have some interesting questions. Self-assessment is difficult for students, especially if they are used to teachers (or parents) being the “judge.”

      I would definitely start this process differently for younger students, with lots of modeling by the teacher (as described in the post). Sometimes I would deliberately make a mistake, and then say “wait a minute…” and think aloud, with their input, through the process of identifying the cause of my question.

      It may help students to work in pairs for additional feedback, critiquing each other’s work using the rubric. At first, students would often ask “Is this right?” My response would be “Let’s look at the rubric.”

      As you work in elementary classrooms, you’ll discover which prompts work best with the students. I’d love to hear about your experiences!

      Mary B

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