Overview of Student Focused Assessment Model (pt1)

This is the first of six articles on the assessment and reporting practice used at my school for the past 15 years or so. While things have evolved over time, and recent changes to our provincial reporting requirements are challenging the way we do things, this is a snapshot of the ideal, our grand goals, and in most cases, the practice. The final post in this series will focus on the challenges of implementing, sustaining, and adapting this model.


Inasmuch as we focus on curriculum, we also focus on organization, planning, goal setting, self-reflection, and personal growth. The philosophy underpinning assessment strategies and practices is understood by all teaching staff in the building. While I don't recall ever seeing a philosophy written down as such, this is how I understood it:

Efficacious learners honestly reflect, self-evaluate, and assess their own work against criteria they understand. They are independent and reflect meaningfully on both their content mastery and their skills as learners.

The school was built in the early 90's and began with a strong core philosophy relating to assessment, reporting, student reflection and engagement. Any teacher new to the school subsequent to opening received training and mentoring on strategies and reasoning behind them. While we shared philosophy, there was ample room for individualization and professional discretion.

The graphic below illustrates the flow of all the elements in our assessment practices. Each in turn will be explored and described in separate posts in the coming weeks.


Students begin the year setting big-picture goals based on the last growth statement from their previous year. These are shared with parents at a goal-setting night.

As students learn course content and engage in activities, they, with teachers, explore the characteristics of exemplary models of the product they are creating. These characteristics form the criteria by which they will assess their own work.

Throughout an activity, students consult the criteria to see whether their product meets the requirements. They are also encouraged to add value by going beyond the criteria. Before submitting their completed work, students self-assess against the criteria and reflect on their learning processes and strategies.

Teachers respond to student assessments providing feedback on both the product and their learning strategies. These learning artifacts form part of the students work portfolio.

At term-end, students review the pieces in the portfolio and create a summary comment on their learning, achievements, growth, and challenges with new or ongoing goals based on the reflections and feedback attached to each piece. Teachers again respond to students summary statements. These reflections become the report card, or Growth Statement.

Families attend Student Led Conferences where portfolios, reflections, and feedback  are shared with their families followed by the growth statement.

Throughout, we see students taking responsibility for the quality of their work, pushing beyond the minimum criteria, responding in myriad ways to demonstrate understanding, and developing the ability to meaningfully assess their own work.

Other Posts in this Series

  1. Overview
  2. Goal Setting
  3. Engagement
  4. Portfolio
  5. Growth Statements
  6. Student Led Conferences
  7. Forms


  1. Simon says:

    Thanks for this post, Miles. This really struck a chord with my recent thinking and spurred me on to create a self-assessment proforma for my pupils to fill in after completing an essay, before submitting it to me. I've been meaning to do this for a while so it's good to have been encouraged to finally get on with it!

    The pupil response when I handed it out today was rather mixed, with some genuinely excited about being able to use the tool to improve the quality of their work, and some irritated that they've got more work to do! I do believe, though, that it will pay off since pupils will have a much better idea about how to create a decent essay, and hopefully this will pay dividends in the long term.

    I haven't had a chance to digest your other posts in this series yet but I will certainly be doing so over the weekend.

    Thanks again!

    • milesmac says:

      Thanks for the note, Simon. This model of assessment does require some training for students to have meaningful reflections. I use sentence starters and text frames to start so students understand the kind of questions they're answering, the kind of statements they are making. It does get easier for them, and the payoff is significant.

  2. […] was particularly inspired last week, however, by a blog post I read by Miles MacFarlane. In this post he summed up the assessment philosophy in his own school in the […]

  3. […] was particularly inspired last week, however, by a blog post I read by Miles MacFarlane. In this post he summed up the assessment philosophy in his own school in the […]

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