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Strategy Guide

Promoting Student Self-Assessment

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Promoting Student Self-Assessment

Grades 6 – 12

Phil Wilder

Champaign, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English

Strategy Guide Series Differentiating Instruction

See All Strategy Guides in this series 


Research Basis

Strategy in Practice

Related Resources

In this Strategy Guide, you'll learn about a number of specific methods that will promote self-assessment and contribute to a richer understanding of student learning.

Research Basis


Because of their diverse literacy needs, our students need us to differentiate the product, process and content of learning according to their learning style, interest and readiness. Yet, recognizing student growth and literacy needs requires more than one voice and more than one snapshot. Research has reminded us of the value of continued assessment and of students as partners in their own assessment. This heightened metacognition leads to increased engagement across content areas and remains a key characteristic of life-long learning. Motivation to learn increases when students are asked to critically analyze their own learning.  And, if continued assessment informs instruction, students and teachers benefit from student feedback about what a student does and does not understand.

So, how can we promote self-assessment that is respectful, meaningful and informative to us and to students? Several self-assessment tools can provide a window into student understanding and needs.


Strategy in Practice

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Assessment, and specifically self-assessment, allows us to tap into student differences in order to see how our teaching can respond to their needs. Several simple, transferable methods can be used at any point in a unit in order to promote reflection on learning and inform our instruction.

  • Student Created Rubrics: Ask students to contribute to the creation of a rubric that defines success. A reading response task, a multi-modal presentation, or a group discussion leads to higher levels of learning when students are included in defining success.

  • Learning Contract: Ask students to create and agree to a learning contract at the beginning of a unit. The learning contract can define the learning goals, the "photo album" of evidence of learning, and agreed upon activities. At numerous times during the unit, ask students to revisit the contract, record new learning or muddy points and to get feedback from you or other peers.

  • Muddy Point Board: Designate an area in the room or a board for students to pin questions, muddy points, or topics they'd like the class to revisit. Asking students to periodically pick a question or comment from the board to discuss can build student ownership of learning.

  • Nameless Voice: Ask students to anonymously submit sample work to share with the class. Sample paragraphs on the overhead, a visual vocabulary card, or a ticket out the door quick write can all be samples of student work that the class or individual students can use. Ask students to write or discuss how the nameless voice is similar or different to their understanding.

  • Letter to a Future Student: At the conclusion of a unit, ask students to write a letter to a future student in the class explaining what they've learned in a unit or what to do when a text is difficult or what I've learned about my own learning that might help you, etc. Regardless of the topic, the medium provides useful feedback on student thinking and learning while promoting reflection on learning.

Related Resources

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Grades   6 – 12  |  Lesson Plan  |  Recurring Lesson

Active Reading through Self-Assessment: The Student-Made Quiz

This recurring lesson encourages students to comprehend their reading through inquiry and collaboration. They choose important quotations from the text and work in groups to formulate "quiz" questions that their peers will answer.