Student Self Reflection and Self Assessment: A SEL Teaching Practice 

By Laura Driscoll
Read Time:  min
Create a classroom where students think about and advocate for their learning.

Students transform when they understand who they are as learners and use that information to advocate for themselves. They become invested and in charge of their learning. Teachers get to be guides and supports, rather than tug boats dragging them along. How do we intentionally create a classroom community that fosters student self reflection?

The Center on Great Teachers and Leaders found 10 key social emotional learning teaching strategies. One of those, Self-Assessment and Self-Reflection, helps create a classroom culture where students are thinking about their learning and advocating for themselves with this information. Self-assessment and self-reflection is when teachers ask students to actively think about their work. 

Let's look at some intentional SEL teaching strategies to help increase students' self awareness through assessment and reflection.

1. Assess Work

The first step students take is to analyze their work. In this step, students can use either teacher created or class created standards. They look at their work and determine what they have learned and what they still do not know. 

Peer review, rubrics, and lesson objectives on the board are great tools to introduce this practice.

TAKE ACTION: Use a learning objective from a lesson and have students determine if they met the learning objective based on clear criteria.

2. Reflect to Improve

Once students can more critically look at their learning, they can reflect on how to improve for next time. This is a great opportunity for students to answer simple reflection questions like:

  • What worked well for me? 
  • What was challenging for me?
  • What will I keep, improve, start, or stop doing?

This stage is the time to review strategies and tools to improve learning. This could be things like a simple checklist to stay on task or reviewing vocabulary before reading a passage.

TAKE ACTION: Have students answer reflection questions as part of longer assignments.


3. Set Goals

So far you have students assessing their learning and reflecting on how they could improve. Next, students can build their motivation by setting goals for their learning.

To do this, they have to know what they are working towards, how to accomplish it, and when they accomplish it. 

This is a good time to introduce growth mindset and goal setting activities. Students benefit from these tools to gain control of their learning and find ways to problem solve when they get stuck.

TAKE ACTION: Work with students to set personal goals that will help them improve academic, behavior, social, or emotional skills.

Goal Brainstorm Sheet

4. Check Progress

In classrooms that promote self-assessment and self-reflection, there are regular check-ins for students to see how they are progressing with their goals. Students can tell what they already learned, what's coming up and where they are. 

Break down the path to the end goal into small pieces. It can be helpful for students to see this visually. This can be done through simple rubrics. It can also be done individually for students who struggle with specific behaviors (i.e., raising their hand). 

A word of caution: When monitoring progress we often get stuck on things like reading levels or test scores. While these can be good shorthand, they don't tell the student a lot about their learning. Being a level M gives them little clarity about what to do to improve their reading.

TAKE ACTION: At the beginning of a unit, create a visual learning road map or pyramid with all the skills students will learn. Students can color or check off skills as they learn them.

5. Get Help

"Three before me" may be the original way for teachers to help students learn to find other ways to get help. 

In classrooms that promote self-assessment and self-reflection, students do this more independently. If students are doing the first four things on this list - assessing their work, reflecting on improvement, setting goals, and monitoring progress - this part will come easier. 

At the beginning of lessons, students can review how to get help, when to get help, and where to find it. But when students know how to do the first four skills, they can also be specific about what they need help with. 

For example, students may have help cards on their desk that they flip over during an independent activity to let their teacher know they need help. On that card, there may also be a few reflection questions to get them thinking about their issue. Questions like: Where am I stuck? What part am I confused about? Did I miss a direction?

TAKE ACTION: At the beginning of an activity, quickly brainstorm how students can get help, when they should seek help, and where they can find it.

6. Ask for Feedback

Last, but not least, is modeling self-assessment and self-reflection. Ask students for feedback on how lessons and activities worked for them. Was there something you could improve or do differently? 

TAKE ACTION: A couple times a week, let students give you feedback on a lesson or activity. You could even share a simple rubric you have for your teaching and have them determine what you did well or could do better.

Creating Reflective Learners

Building a classroom of reflective learners means incorporating a few key teaching practices. Look at your lessons this week and add in where students can: 

  • Assess their learning.
  • Reflect on how they can improve their learning.
  • Set goals for their learning based on their assessment and reflection.
  • Monitor their progress on those goals.

These practices help students have more responsibility for their learning and grow their motivation.

More SEL Teaching Practices

Interested in incorporating SEL into your teaching? Check out other SEL teaching practices here.

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I’m a school psychologist who left her office (closet?) and got busy turning a decade of experience into ready to use counseling and SEL resources.

I live in New York City with my adventurous husband and relaxed to the max daughter who’ve grown to appreciate my love of a good checklist.

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