Goal Setting

By Ish Stabosz
Center for Creative Instruction & Technology
Delaware Technical Community College
Stanton Campus

In my last post about Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning by Jan Chappuis, we looked at some practical ways to give feedback to students and discussed how to make peer review sessions more effective. That post finished up my synopsis of strategy 3: Offer regular descriptive feedback during the learning. Today, we delve into the 4th strategy of assessment for learning: Teach students to self-assess and set goals for next steps.

I’m going to change things up a bit for my analysis of Chapter 4. This chapter was loaded with examples of charts, handouts, tables, and graphic organizers that instructors can use to help guide the self-assessment process. Rather than attempt to explain all of these to you, I decided that I would apply my understanding of this chapter to create a handout for use in my own classes.

So for this post, I’ll start with a quick overview of some of the reasons that Chappuis offers as to why self-assessment matters, then I’ll show you my creation and explain why I set it up the way I did.

Why Self-Assessment Matters

Chappuis starts Chapter 4 by explaining that the first three strategies prepare students for the fourth one. That is, once students have an idea of what the learning target looks like, know how to differentiate good examples from bad, and have experienced quality feedback (from you), they are ready to start evaluating their own work–which is the heart of strategy 4. Without practice in self-monitoring, it is hard to really say that a student has mastered a skill or concept. The ability to direct oneself is intrinsically tied to understanding a process. Even though I am no master writer, I can be said to have some mastery of the writing process because as I type this very post, I am constantly checking myself on everything that I know about good writing. I don’t need to wait for an outside authority to hand me back a rubric.

Similarly, students need a chance to practice monitoring themselves so that when they move on to their algebra class next semester, they’ll be able to catch their arithmetic mistakes before it’s too late. Or, so that when step into their technical writing class, the teacher can focus on basics of primary research rather than simple paragraph development. Chappuis also offers plenty of research to explain why self-assessment matters as well.

Two studies that she cites found that student achievement improves when students are required to reflect on what they’ve mastered and what they haven’t. Another study found that students are actually more receptive to instructor feedback when they are required to reflect on their own progress first. Finally, one study that looked at middle school science students revealed that low-achieving students who engaged in self-reflection performed closer to high-achievers than similarly low-achieving students in the control group that did not do the reflection.

Building Self-Assessment into the Learning

So, at this point in the chapter, I’m sold. I accept that, despite the costs in time and sacrifices in content-delivery, I’ve got to find a way to build self-assessment into my learning activities. I sifted through the rest of strategy four trying to find a way to make it practical. I analyzed all of Chappuis’s examples and chewed on all of the research justifications she offered and I came up with this: My Self-Assessment Log.

Click the link to open it in a new window, spend a few minutes checking it out, then read on to learn why I set it up this way and how I plan to use it in class.


In my last post, I created a new process for how I move students from rough draft to final draft. It looks like this:

Minimal Instruction > Rough Draft > Just-In-Time Instruction > Self-Assessment > Revision > Peer Feedback > More Revision > Instructor Feedback > Final Draft

As you can see, the Self-Assessment Log comes after students have completed their rough draft and received some instruction from me. Before they even look at the log, though, they would use the assignment rubric to evaluate their own work. Click here to see an example of one of my rubrics (I developed this rubric based on information from Chapter 2). Once they have evaluated their work, they’ll use the log to set goals for improving on a few specific areas of their choice. I’ve designed the log so that students set two major goals (which require a good amount of consideration) and three minor goals (which can be created pretty quickly).

Major Goals

Chappuis breaks strategy four down into four specific steps:

  1. Self-assessment
  2. Justification
  3. Goal setting
  4. Action planning

For the major goal section of the log, each column corresponds to one of these steps. For each goal, I first have students select one of the descriptors from the rubric to work on. This keeps them focused on one learning target at a time. In the second column, I force students to make good assessments by asking them to justify their decisions with actual references to their work. With these first two columns completed, students have pin-pointed where they are right now in regards to the learning target.

In the third column, students identify where they are going by setting what Chappuis calls a “hard goal”. According to Chappuis, a hard goal is one that is both specific and challenging.  Goals that are too vague don’t lead students to create a realistic action plan, and goals that are too easy don’t reward students with a genuine feeling of success. Chappuis references a study that found that the “performances of students who have the most challenging goals are over 250 percent higher than the performances of the subjects with the easiest goals”.

Now that students have a goal in mind for meeting the learning target, they use the final column to create a plan of action for achieving their goal. You can see in this column that I prompt students with three questions to help them create a plan. The first and third questions are pretty obvious, but I want to take a moment to explain why I ask the second question: “When and where will you [act on your plan]?”. Chappuis cites several studies that prove just how monumental this question is in motivating people to persist in attaining their goals. I’ll summarize just one of the studies to give you an idea of what I’m talking about it. It looks something like this:

  1. In May, two equal cohorts of high school sophomores were provided with a practice book for the PSAT.
  2. One cohort was immediately asked to write down and hand in a specific plan for the time and location that they would practice for the PSAT. The other cohort was not asked to make any such plan.
  3. By the end of summer, the students who had made no plan finished 100 problems on average, whereas the students in the planning cohort averaged 250 problems completed.

So, you can see, just by getting students to commit to a time and place, they are more likely to actually work on their goal.

Making It Work for Your Classes

If you like my Self-Assessment Log and think it would work for you classes, steal away. I always tell people to use and abuse my stuff at will. If you do abuse the form (meaning, change it), please share your revisions in the comments to keep the conversation going.

But even if you don’t teach writing, or even if you don’t use rubrics, you can still find a way to work self-assessment into your classes. Have students look at their quiz results and identify where they went wrong, why, and what they are going to do about it. Then, give them a makeup quiz. Or if their lab report doesn’t quite hit the target, have them reflect on why and set goals for the next lab. Whatever the learning target is, just remember the fours steps to strategy 4: self-assessment, justification, goal setting, and action planning.

That’s it for Chapter 4. Please do let me know what you think of my materials or offer me some suggestions for improvement. And come back next time when I jump into the fifth strategy of assessment for learning: Use evidence of student learning needs to determine next steps in teaching.


  1. Pingback:“Seven Strategies of Assessment for Learning” in Action – Part 7 | Ask CCIT!

  2. Anonymous4 years ago

    Thank you for this wonderful blog series! I will definitely be “stealing” many of your ideas. You did mention however that you would like to know if we “abused” or changed anything. Although I have yet to implement the Self-Assessment Log you created,(which is fabulous and I intend to do so next year) I have simply gone ahead and changed the wording of your of “Good” and “Bad” HARD goal examples to “Weak” and “Solid” in direct reference to the word “Hard” 😉
    Thanks again!!!!

    1. Ish Stabosz4 years ago

      Love it! That’s why I am happy to let people abuse my work. Because they just make it better. Thanks!

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