Learning Activities and Self-Reflection in Student Focused Assessment Model (pt3)

This is the third of six articles on the assessment and reporting practice used at my school for the past 15 years This post explores day-to-day student engagement, reflection, and self-assessment.

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.

About the School

Each teacher in my school is a generalist - we teach all subjects to our assigned students. Our school has no time-period bells; apart from physical education, band, and the technology and applied arts programs, each teacher can structure the day as they require. With that focus and flexibility, it is common to find integrated inquiry and project based learning throughout my middle school.

Authentic Learning Contexts

Learning activities and projects begin with establishing purpose: What is the project goal? What do we want to accomplish? What change do we want to make? Students help identify project goals and the teacher identifies the learning outcomes. We try to make connections to life beyond the school walls with social justice and environmental issues giving students a sense of purpose and a sense that their learning matters and will make a difference in the world.

Exemplars and Criteria

Viewing exemplary work samples and examples beyond school, students and teachers identify the qualities and characteristics of a quality product. These characteristics become the criteria by which finished products are assessed. Student participation in creating criteria is an essential part of learning about what matters in their project. As students engage in the project, they refer to criteria to make sure they are on track.

Assessing & Reflecting

Once their project is finished, they assign a rubric designation describing to what extent they have met the criteria. Students also reflect on the completed product commenting on how it meets each of the criteria. They will also compose statements on strategies they used to focus, learn, organize, complete, reflect, engage, revise, edit, and improve their product.

Teachers receiving the finished product already have worked with students during the implementation and creating phase to troubleshoot and provide formative feedback. The student reflection and feedback highlights for the teacher what the student wants them to notice - highlights evidence of learning and points out in what ways, and to what extent criteria are met. Teachers respond to the comments and provide their own rubric designation as well as some feedback on their content knowledge and understandings of themselves as learners.

Over the course of a term, these "conversations" are entered into the student's portfolio providing evidence for term reports and materials for student-led conferences.

Implementation Issues

Preparing students for this form of assessment, they need to understand supporting statements with evidence. Some will need guidance to be realistic in their assessments either because they have been too hard, or too generous with themselves. When teacher and student have very different assessments, it becomes a point of conversation. Because everything is referenced against criteria I can ask students to show me the evidence they used suggesting mastery, or exceeding criteria. Alternatively, I may bring out evidence to share with a student about why I believe they accomplished a greater understanding than they are giving themselves credit for.

1 2 3 4 5 6
Minimal Evidence of Criteria Little Evidence of Criteria Some Evidence of Criteria Meets Criteria Exceeds Criteria Greatly Exceeds Criteria

We tell students that 4 means you've done what is expected. If these were percent scores, we might say it was the 80-100% range. What we appreciate about this scale is the room above the "100%" which invites students to go beyond, to dig deeper, to make stronger connections. This is the built-in enrichment end of every activity we do in the year.

It is important to recognize that these rubric designations are "out of 6" and cannot be turned to a fraction or a percent. The number merely represents the extent to which a student has met the criteria - they could just as effectively be symbols, icons, or faces like the ones my students found a couple of years ago.


When students take a role in setting the criteria, are responsible for assessing their work, and reflecting on their behaviours as a learner, they have a greater stake in the finished product. It developes independence inasmuch as they don't have to wait for someone else to tell them if their work is good. They develop self-efficacy insofar as they learn to judge for themselves and make decisions to improve with little to no prompting. Further benefits will be evident when we explore growth statements and student-led conferences as well as the next post in the series exploring portfolios.


Other Posts in this Series

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



  1. [...] to review work from the past term. Students first share their portfolio of work samples with self-assessments and reflections. We encourage parents to ask questions, and students to share details about their learning [...]

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