This is a follow up post to my portfolios in December, link here if you would like to read it first. I use FreshGrade for my student portfolios and self-reflection but this can be done on any platform – Yes, including pen and paper!

Self-Reflection Criteria and Sentence Stems

Our self-reflections this year have four parts: assessment, justification, strength, and goal.

I have given sentence stems for each part of the assessment, although if students write their own sentences without the stems that is great. I find the sentence stems are very helpful for students when starting self-reflections, then some students quickly moved away from them whereas some students are still using the prescriptively.

Assessment: “For this learning goal I am ________ (fully meeting/approaching/etc) expectations”
Justification: “You can see this in_______” OR “I know this because _________”
Strength: “I want you to notice _______” OR “I am proud of my ___________”
Goal: “Next time I will ______” OR “A goal for me to work on is_________”

Building the Practice of Self-Reflection

Self-reflection is the most powerful part of portfolios this year but it hasn’t always been smooth. When we first started self-reflecting I had a few students who did an excellent job right away, many students who were going through the motions, and a few students who needed prompting just to include all four parts. As we moved through first term most students started to get into a rhythm with self-reflecting, but I found that sometimes being in a rhythm means there is less powerful thinking happening. I took a short break from posting to FreshGrade after winter holidays as I tried to wrap my head around making these reflections more powerful. I decided that we need to dive into looking at the practice of self-reflections as I teach other skills in the classroom.

You can access the Slide Deck I used here.

Step One: Review Expectations

Since it had been a while since our last self-reflection I made sure to start back at the basics.

Step Two: Use Student Examples

I went back through the portfolios and chose three student examples. I removed all evidence of student identification and fixed a few grammar/spelling errors so that students would be focused on the thinking and not the editing. For each student example, I read it out and had students partner talk to find the powerful thinking in each reflection. When using student examples I feel that it is important to focus on what is powerful and what they did well. None of these reflections are “perfect” but all three offered a piece to talk about that showed powerful thinking.

For student example one (blue), the students discussed how the goal was realistic and would show a practical way to exceed expectations. They also discussed how the reflection was complete and easy to understand.

For student example two (green), the students discussed how the strength showed a good understanding of meeting a goal (this strength wasn’t a part of our criteria it was student directed). They also noticed how the student used the criteria to clearly support the assessment.

For student example three (yellow), the students thought there was really good language choice in the reflection and they noticed how the words came right out of our class criteria for the assignment. We also discussed how this student was able to pull out a lot of strengths in their work which shows they probably are exceeding expectations.

Co-Created Criteria for Self-Reflections

After we pulled out the powerful thinking from the student examples, we were ready to create our criteria for a powerful self-reflection. As always, student generated criteria is very important and places the ownership back on them. This slide only had the title on it and then I typed in the criteria as we went so that I could leave it displayed and later add it to our Google Classroom with the rest of our FreshGrade information.

In our criteria, I really loved the words that came out at the end: “creative, interesting, reflective, and thoughtful.” This was the area that I noticed really pushed students into thinking differently, and hopefully more deeply, when writing their self-reflections.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Right after we finished generating criteria students had two learning goals to reflect on. The incidental piece, that was probably most helpful, was that each of these learning goals had evidence already posted. I had taken pictures and uploaded earlier in the day for the two learning goals. By eliminating the need to add an artifact first, students were really able to focus on their reflections. The self-reflections were a lot more meaningful then previous ones and it was a good reminder of the importance of being explicit in our teaching.

And For the Sake of Honesty in Blogging…

I spent 10 minutes resetting passwords and reminding students of their log in information. Many students did not finish their self-reflections that afternoon, even though they had plenty of time to do so. A few students still needed me to sit next to them and prompt them for each sentence.

It’s not perfect but it’s progress.

My Goals

As I continue down this portfolio/self-reflection road, I want to find a way to upload learning goals more spaced out so that we don’t have reflection overload at the end of term. I also have strayed away from my initial intent of having students choose what to upload for each learning goal and become more prescriptive, especially in our Science/Social Studies which is more typically built around projects as artifacts of learning. I would like to find a balance where there is more student ownership but still the structure that is needed in grade 6.

As always it is a work in progress.

Please let me know in the comments how you use portfolios:
What works? What doesn’t? What are your goals?