Introducing student self assessment

Providing guided opportunities for students to practice self-assessment is essential for its success. Students need to do it, discuss it and justify it. After students have self-assessed their work, they will be able to set new learning goals based of what they have learnt about themselves.

Provide guided opportunities

Teachers can provide opportunities to their students for self-assessment, as well as opportunities to discuss and justify their self-assessment.

For self-assessment, ask students to:

  • self-assess familiar tasks or performances using clearly identified success criteria
  • practice using anonymous samples - when students become more confident allow them to practice
  • using their own work - start small and apply the process to a particular criterion or a section of work
  • observe, circulate and give feedback and support as students self-assess.

The following 3 strategies can be used to support students with their self-assessment and provide opportunities to discuss and explain their self-assessment, such as:

1. Use the following process to support self-assessment against success criteria:

  • Begin by having students assess their work against the criteria and identify successes.
  • As students become confident in identifying successes ask them to identify where the success criteria have not been met - the teacher may help with ways to improve.
  • Finally, students identify successes and an area for improvement and then make the improvement independently.

2. Discuss/display strategies students can use when they haven’t met the success criteria. For example:

  • retrace your steps in the process
  • check with a buddy
  • look at the exemplar again
  • read it out loud
  • find more information
  • use a dictionary.

3. Have students self-assess against a model of ‘good work’ or check their work against a model response.

  • Use exit cards, checklists, feedback logs and learning journals as assessment tools to promote self reflection and activate students’ metacognitive skills, or sentence starters and prompts to support student reflection and evaluation.
  • For example, use sentence starters and prompts to support student reflection and evaluation.
  • Sentence starters: Today I learnt... / I now feel confident about... / I felt confused when...
  • Prompts: What is one thing you learned? /  What successes did you experience? / What are the challenges you faced?

Explain how to set goals

As a result of self-assessment, students learn to identify specific actions they need to take to improve, and to plan their next steps.

Teaching students how to set goals and plan next steps is important so they can define their long-term and short-term individual goals with increasing confidence.

Types of goals

Goals can take many forms with learning goals being the most important. For some students, other goals can be included in the planning process.

  • Long term goals could be for a term or a semester and need to link to syllabus standards.
  • Short-term goals could be for the next week or a unit of work and need to link to syllabus standards.
  • Learning goals link to syllabus standards and relate to the teacher’s goals for the unit, semester, etc.
  • Generic goals relate to general improvements the student wishes to include.
  • Behavioural goals relate to specific behaviours the students are targeting.

Goal setting process

The role of teachers and students are specific in the goal setting process:

  1. The teacher models the setting of individual goals - learning, generic and/or behavioural.
  2. The teacher guides students in writing individual goals.
  3. The student generates individual learning goals based on self, peer and teacher feedback - learning, generic and/or behavioural.
  4. The teacher gives students specific feedback on their goals.
  5. The teacher helps students identify and record focused actions they can take to achieve their goals - an action plan.
  6. The student records the specific actions required to achieve their goals - their action plan.
  7. The teacher helps students identify procedures they can use to monitor their own progress.
  8. The student monitors their progress towards carrying out the plan and achieving their goals.

Tips for teaching students to set goals and plan next steps

As students become more proficient with individual goal-setting:

  • begin with long-term and short-term learning goals and include generic and behavioural goals
  • model writing SMART goals and display a chart with the success criteria (or develop your own class success criteria) for writing goals and encourage students to refer to it when writing or assessing their individual learning goals − identify successful features.
S = specific, significant S = clearly articulates the knowledge and skills identified in the feedback as needing improvement
M = measurable, meaningful M = describes specific actions or steps that enable the student to measure progress and determine whether the goal has been achieved
A = action-orientated, achievable A = sets out actions that the student can take to achieve the goal
R = realistic, relevant, results-orientated R = contains an appropriate balance between being challenging and being attainable, given available resources, student readiness and so on
T = timely T = sets out a reasonable timeframe for achieving the goal and identifies checkpoints along the way
  • Revisit an anonymous sample previously used for modelling or practising applying success criteria. Ask students to look at the feedback given on the work and identify a significant area for improvement and the next steps.
  • Use an assessment task students have recently self-assessed or peer-assessed. Ask students to write a learning goal using the process modelled by the teacher then remind them to focus their goal by identifying and prioritising a success criterion that has not been met. The teacher might conference with students individually or in groups on the suitability and quality of their learning goals.
  • Have students work with feedback partners to provide feedback on their individual learning goals using the success criteria displayed in the classroom.
  • Develop learning goal templates, for example:
My learning goals The steps I will take Success will look like Target date Achieved
  • develop monitoring templates, for example:
Learning goals Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Week 10


  • Ontario Ministry of Education (2010), Department of Education & Training Victoria.
Return to top of page Back to top