Reflection, Self-Assessment and Peer-Assessment

Jessica Kalra

Reflection is a process that allows the student to consider their learning, break it down into key elements and examine their experience with these elements. According to Moon, as learners reflect on complex ideas or experiences, process new information within the context of existing knowledge, deeper learning can be achieved (Moon, 2013). Reflection supports the stages of learning: noticing, making sense, creating meaning and relationships with other ideas and perhaps even transforming understanding (Moon, 2013). Furthermore, the task is learner-centred where the learner is encouraged to take ownership of the material, make links between learning and action, create a personal connection to the material, consider the future use of that learning and develop an awareness of their metacognitive processing. Including reflection tasks in the assessment strategy is another way in which we can engage students in their learning which in turn supports academic integrity.

There are several frameworks for designing reflection-based assessments (Gibbs & Andrew, 2001; Kolb, 2014; Goldstein, 1985; Moon 2001). Most include three critical pieces:

  1. a description of the experience
  2. an analysis or examination of those experiences in the context of existing skills or knowledge and the learning outcomes; and
  3. articulation of how this learning is meaningful at present and for the future

Or more simply put – what? So what? and now what? (Driscoll, 2007; Karsten & Borton, 1971). The University of Waterloo provides guidelines for including critical reflection tasks in your course. These guidelines emphasize ways to engage students that include modelling the reflective process by asking and answering reflective questions in class and explaining to your students the rationale behind using reflection. Reflection is a skill that needs to be learned and developed, particularly if the goal is for transformative learning. Before reflection can be used as a method of assessment, it is important to teach students how to reflect deeply in addition to giving students the opportunity to practice these skills while providing feedback.

The team at UW highlights that reflection may look different in different disciplines, and it is therefore important to give your students an explicit definition of reflection that makes sense in your area of study. It is helpful to provide examples of what deep reflection might look like as well as rubrics for the evaluation process. For example, a reflection exercise in a physics course may require students to complete a laboratory task, take notes on the method they used and the results they found and conclude with a discussion on what the results mean as well as an analysis of challenges they faced and how the experiment can be improved.

Below is a table that describes some examples of reflection-based assessments and their utility.

Assessment Type


Learning Journal/Learning Diary Requires the student to write entries based on course content throughout a semester.
Laboratory Manual Requires students to organize and communicate the purpose, methods, results and conclusions of a laboratory exercise in addition to putting this information into the context of existing and future knowledge
Logbook, Specifications, documentations Requires the student to explain in writing what knowledge and skills they needed to complete a task as well as what was done. Logbooks can help in the metacognitive process.
Self-assessment/ Reflective note Requires the student to comment on their own work. The student may address the following questions:

  1. What did I learn?
  2. How can I apply this new skill or knowledge?
  3. What questions do I still have? What do I still need to learn?
  4. What is the next step in my learning?
Commentary Requires the student to examine examples of a test answer, an assignment or a solution to a problem and address the strengths and/or weaknesses
Essay diary Requires the student to examine, justify, and/or critique their writing, research or learning processes. For example, an annotated bibliography.


Self and peer-assessments are related to reflection. Self-assessments involve students in their own learning progress by giving them the opportunity to evaluate what they know and what they need to learn. Students can then track their own progress, identify gaps, set learning goals, and revise their process when needed. While self-reflection is a complex and open-structured process, self-assessment is still well-defined in that the performance criteria is set and the student is examining strengths and identifying areas for improvement based on those criteria (Desjarlais & Smith 2011). Wride has written a comprehensive guide to developing self-assessment strategies in higher education. Peer-assessments allow learners the opportunity to reflect on the product and process of other students, as well as their own. Giving and receiving peer feedback on the quality of work and recommendations for improvement can help students address their own learning needs or illuminate other possible learning strategies they may undertake. The teaching and learning services facility at McGill University have developed a Peer Assessment Resource Document that provides instruction on how to develop peer assessment tasks.

Now that we have looked at examples of assessments that consider process in addition to product, we can turn to another form of assessment strategy, authentic assessment. This type of assessment focuses on product in a way that increases student engagement. Student engagement is another mechanism through which we may be able to support student learning and academic integrity.


Encouraging Academic Integrity Through Intentional Assessment Design Copyright © by Jessica Kalra. All Rights Reserved.

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