4 Keys to Student Self-Assessment

Decorative: "Self Assessment" written on a Post-it flag


"4 Keys to Student Self-Assessment" (post) outlines the practical application of learning targets, success criteria, feedback, and time-focused activities in cultivating student agency and habits of self-assessment.

1. Learning Targets

"Students can hit any target that they know about and that stands still for them."

Some learning-target tips:

  • Break learning objectives "up into multiple [specific and limited] learning targets."
  • Use "student-friendly language" so "students [will] to be able to leverage these targets to drive their own learning through self-assessment (assessment as learning)."
  • "To promote inquiry, present each learning target in the form of a question (“Can I…?” instead of “I can…”) ... inquiry targets instead of learning targets."
  • Show student "the learning targets they’re trying to hit" -- on the board, a handout, the syllabus, etc.

2. Success Criteria

For "students to hit their targets, they have to know what it looks like when this hitting happens" -- they "need to be aware of its success criteria."

  • "As learning targets are made visible to students, ... accompan[y] each target with its success criteria."
  • "Think of your [success criteria] handout as ... containing three columns ... the list of learning targets ... the list of success criteria ... [and] feedback."
  • "[S]tudents can work with the teacher to construct success criteria (as opposed to it simply being given to them) ... through the analysis of exemplars .... By the time students are done analyzing exemplars they are ... entrenched in what quality work looks like."

3. Feedback

a. "In general, feedback tells a student three things":

  • "Where he/she is: the student’s current abilities"
  • "Where he/she needs to go: the student’s current abilities in relation to success criteria and hitting the learning target(s) for which he/she is striving"
  • "How to get there: what the student needs to do to achieve success criteria and hit the target(s)"

b. "Feedback must be given in relation to something – in this case, success criteria and learning targets."

c. "[F]eedback generally takes on three forms: teacher-to-student, student-to-student, and student-to-self."

  • "[T]o promote student agency, we should mostly be aiming for student-to-self." 
  • "[C]reate the conditions for this type of feedback to be the norm."
  • Use "explicit modeling" - "The teacher and students assess ... work by working their way through the learning targets, one at a time ... discuss[ing] the feedback that should be given."
  • Use "gradual release" - "[S]tart with teacher-to-student" feedback and "filter in more and more student-to-student, followed by more and more student-to-self ... [so] students are prepared for student-to-self by first learning how to give feedback from both their teacher and their peers."

4. Time

"[S]et aside class time for student self-assessment ... time ... dedicated to students practicing and applying self-assessment without the pressures of having to simultaneously move forward with their work."

Some time-task tips:

  • Targeted Activity - Call students' attention to a specific learning target and success criteria; give them ten minutes to try and hit the target individually; after ten minutes, form groups based on the level of success to better focus specific instruction, interventions, etc.
  • Goal Setting - After a unit, ask students "to (1) select 2-3 learning targets that stand out as areas for improvement, (2) look at his/her current [work] and give written self-feedback for each target, and then (3) for each target, use its success criteria to create a written improvement plan."
  • Reflection - Help "get our students into the habit of self-assessment and reflection by giving them prompts (which don’t necessarily have to connect to learning targets)" - for example, "Today I learned…," "I was interested in…," "One thing I’m not sure about is…," "I might have gotten more from this lesson if…"
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