For the last two years, I have published several blogs detailing my journey away from traditional grading and assessment practices. The purpose of this shift was three-fold.

  1. I wanted to shift the conversation from points to the development of skills.
  2. I wanted students to take ownership of their progress and skill development.
  3. I do not believe grades should happen to students.

If students are going to develop as learners, then they need to track their progress, reflect on their specific skills, and identify areas that need more time, attention, and improvement.

I want students to take an active role not only in their learning but also in the assessment of their progress as a learner. Ultimately, I want students to take an active role not only in their learning but also in the assessment of their progress as a learner. This is easier said than done. Students are rarely asked to think about their learning in a metacognitive way. That’s why my students spend time each week reflecting on the skills they are developing in our class.

My co-teachers and I designed an ongoing self-assessment document that we share with our students each grading period to guide their reflections on their progress and skill development.

Click on the image to make a copy.

First, students are asked to articulate three S.M.A.R.T. goals they have for the grading period and describe their action plan for achieving these goals. These goals are designed to guide their progress and keep them focused on developing specific soft skills and academic skills over the course of our six-week grading period. Too often students become overwhelmed by all of the work teachers assign and lose sight of what they would like to achieve.

The ongoing assessment has a section for soft skills and a section for academic skills. My teaching team places an equal emphasis on evaluating the development of soft skills because our program is project-based. Students work in teams using the design-thinking process, which requires that they communicate, collaborate, solve problems, take risks, and manage their time effectively.

Their ongoing assessment document links to rubrics aligned with each skill so students can read the language of a 1, 2, 3, and 4 to accurately assess where they are regarding their development. In addition to assessing their skills, they must link to work that supports their self-assessment scores and provide a narrative explanation for why they gave themselves a specific score. If they have a question, comment, or request for support, they attach a comment to their narrative explanation and tag one of us so we can follow up with them directly.

To be successful, students need time in class to reflect on their learning. Once a week, I dedicate a station in one of our station rotation lessons to their ongoing assessment documents.

The more students stop to think about their learning and document their progress, the more they focus on developing skills. They begin to advocate for themselves and articulate their needs as learners, which makes it easier for me to provide the necessary support. These ongoing self-assessment documents are also critical to their ability to prepare for our end-of-the-semester grade interviews. If they have not spent time reflecting on their learning, then they cannot make a strong case for why they deserve a particular grade in the class.

Teachers often lament they are short on time. This process of teaching students to set goals and assess their progress as learners takes time, but the payoff is worth it. I love that my conversations with students focus on the development of skills, not the accumulation of points.

21 Responses

  1. Dear Catlin,

    My teachers are struggling to find a lesson plan template that supports blended learning. Would you have something to share? The Mastery Teaching Model had its place and time, and I think we have moved past it as it stands.

    Thank you for anything you can share.


  2. That is a brilliant idea! The concept is well-known, and to not impugn, but I LOVE the intentionality you exude with using this tool! Our students need more than a lecturer and conveyer of information. Students often need a non-parental adult-fan on their side, rather than a condescending half-assed un-caring educator.

    • I really like the idea of making sure the teachers meet with each student at the end of one marking period for Reflection of their Smart Goals and then making new ones (or continue some of the old ones) for the next Marking period.

  3. Great stuff! In your N.E.W school ongoing self assessment sheet, there is a section marked teacher competency code. What is this and how is it determined? Thank you for all your great information and resources.

    • Hi Mollie,

      The competency code is where we evaluate pieces of student work for specific skills. We put a score between 0-4 to indicate where the student is in his/her journey towards mastering that skill. We use a specific rubric so students can see exactly what a 2 or 3 means. Then in the column to the far right, we add a narrative explanation for the score and highlight strategies for improving.

      I hope that makes sense!


      • Absolutely. Thank you for your response. So the student code would be the same scale, and the student is making the assessment? Can you further explain the link to evidence? Is the student responsible for this section relative to their perceived level of mastery? What does the information in this section look like? I hope I am not being ignorant; I am very interested in what you are doing and how you are doing it. I am trying to get a handle on it as thoroughly and quickly as I can, so I can jump in and try it. What you say makes so much sense! I am interested in where to find your rubrics and other resources you use to implement your process. SUCH GOOD STUFF! Thank you for sharing!

        • Hi Mollie,

          Yes, the student code is using the same scale (or rubric). They decide which piece from the week is developing that skill, use the rubric to self-assess their level of mastery, and include evidence of their work (link or image). The information looks like a number and a narrative explanation of 1-3 sentences explaining their self-assessment. I hope that makes sense and is clear!


  4. Catlin,

    I am such huge fan of yours!! My shift in grading and assessment practices this year (and the addition of grading conferences) is due, in part, to your ideas and insightful reflections on purposeful shifts in the classroom. This year, I have also made the shift to standards-based grading with my eighth grade language arts classes, but I’m having challenges with the success criteria for learning targets.
    Any chance you could share with me a sample of the rubric(s) aligned with the language arts skill(s) that your students use to accurately assess where they are regarding their development. I’ve been struggling to find authentic and accurate resources.

    Thanks again – you’re awesome!!

    • Hi Abraham,

      If you visit my post titled “Ongoing Self-Assessments” and click on the image of the assessment form I use, a bunch of my rubrics are linked from that document. You can check out the rubrics I use for both soft skill and academic skills. I hope they are helpful!


  5. […] Please find here a document and process assisting a student in their journey to learning outcome mastery. The template is a great starting point for educators. They can modify it to their areas of study and implement it easily. Find more at […]

  6. Caitlin,

    You are a PBL/Design Thinking environment. Do you consider it a personalized learning space?


    • Hi Helen,

      My teaching team has a PBL focus and students use the design thinking process to work through projects. Our goal is to personalize learning paths as much as possible in this environment. We allow students to make key decisions about the projects they work on. We also offer different levels of support and rigor for students at different levels since we have a heterogeneous group with a WIDE range of skills!


  7. Love this idea. Using the docs on Student Learning Reports to track their growth on the standards. Not grading assignments anymore, I am grading the standards and mastery of said standards.

    Also, station rotations are rocking in my high school science class. Loved your book!

  8. Hi Caitlin,

    thank you so much for sharing this information! I am currently writing a curriculum for a new course at my school called Freshman Seminar and we are focusing on all the soft skills you have included in your rubrics. One skill we are focusing on is self-advocacy. Do you have a rubric for helping students develop this all-important skill?

    Thank you for all you do!

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