How do I help students develop the ability to engage in self-assessment? What can we do?

A teacher’s ability to facilitate self-assessment and student reflection on (independent of you) is essential during the middle grades years. Self-assessment is a student’s ability to check and understand his or her own progress toward a learning outcome. Students who self-assess are involved in personal check-ins, checkpoints, and goal reflections that are student centered, student initiated, and student executed.

For example, in a writing workshop, students can read their drafts against the lens of a checklist and self-identify opportunities for revision. In a project-based learning scenario, students can use a rubric’s details to guide project work sessions as they move toward learning goals.

When considered in the middle school, self-assessment is an especially important endeavor. Middle schoolers are in the midst of doing the difficult (and sometimes confusing) work of developing greater independence from others. Independent thinking toward self-assessment would certainly fall under the umbrella of lasting behavioral changes that students will carry far beyond middle school.

The following suggestions might serve as scaffolds in helping students develop the ability to self-assess:

Model the Behavior

Demonstrate behaviors associated with self-assessment. Consider engaging in a role-play scenario to help students visualize the processes and hear the language and questions one might ask. Modeling provides opportunity to explain and exemplify the self-assessment concept and guide students through this process.

Provide the Tools

Create checklists, rubrics, and goal-setting graphic organizers that match the learning outcomes which align with your curricular standards. While you might find many ready-made supports online, there is value in tailoring specific self-assessment tools to closely match your tasks and standards. These tools may provide useful support to help students self-assess their progress toward the goals of their learning.

Guide from the Side

As you model the behavior and provide students with the tools necessary to self-assess, you may be tempted to step in and rescue your middle schoolers from themselves if they encounter difficulties. However, it is important to remember to guide them from the side. Your goal as the teacher is to help students develop their autonomy; provide students with opportunities to grow and work through challenges.