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Student Self-Reflection as an Assessment Tool

 Some Resources on Student Self-Reflection as an Assessment Tool

Two favourite models for reflection…

1) What/So what/Now what – e.g. (though I disagree about the need for formality – I suspect that is context-specific) or or


1) Gibbs’s reflective cycle – eg. (another version from A-M’s other institution is at or this one from Salford –

Gibbs’s model is more prescriptive than What/So what/Now what (that tends to be used more often in group settings for some reason) but is based on more thorough research and validation, and provides more scaffolding for novices. I’ve used it successfully for about 25 years now and it works well. However, I like the simpler model because it tends to result in less rigid reflections, the basic concepts are easier to understand, there’s a shallower learning curve, and there’s not much difference in quality of reflection.

There are loads of other resources for both, including plentiful stilted videos from well-meaning instructional designers that just feel painful, but I think the simpler and briefer the better for such things – the resources above are all pretty bare bones basic descriptions.

There are lots of other models  – I’d love to learn of alternatives! Some of my earlier course designs use a set of prompts such as:

  • What aspects of these tasks were most difficult for you, and why?
  • If you had to do the tasks again, what would you do differently, and why?
  • How did your previous experience help and/or hinder you in completing the tasks?
  • What was the most surprising thing that you learned?
  • What was the most useful thing that you learned?
  • What did you learn about yourself as a result of completing these tasks?

and/or more course-specific prompts that students use for headings like:

  • describe briefly what you have done as work for that unit.
  • describe the rationale for what you have done, relating your work explicitly to the personas and scenarios you developed in Unit 1.
  • for each learning outcome for the unit, explain how you have met it, with reference to the content that you produce (typically your code or other design artifacts).
  • explain and analyze what went well and what didn’t.
  • describe what you would do differently if you had to do it again.