Reflection Toolkit

Should I assess?

Whether or not reflection should be formally assessed is not always a straightforward question. This page highlights the main points to consider.


There are pros and cons to formal assessment of reflection, and before you introduce reflection into your initiative you should think thoroughly about if, and how, you are going to assess it.

This section provides a brief overview of:

  • Definitions and types of assessment
  • Factors to consider in whether or not to assess reflections
  • When assessment criteria or rubrics are required

Links are provided to further information on the key points and next steps should you decide, or have decided, to assess.


Assessment definitions and types

Assessment refers to when one or more people judges how well a completed task meets specific criteria.  Assessment criteria can range from whether or not the task has been completed, to a full set of quality descriptors with defined performance levels or grades. Those making the judgement can be the students themselves, their peers and/or staff.

As for any other assignment or activity, the assessment options for reflective tasks are typically:

  • Voluntary – the task is not assessed and whether or not a student completes it will not affect any grade or formal outcome attached to the course or initiative
  • For completion – the only criteria for assessment is whether or not the task has been completed; the quality of completion is not judged
  • Formative – the assessment is intended to support student learning, and performance in the assessment does not affect any grade or formal outcome attached to the course or initiative. The goal is to provide feedback to the students and instructor about students’ performances and help develop a way forward
  • Summative – the assessment is intended to evaluate student learning through comparison with a set of criteria. Performance in the assessment affects the grade or formal outcome attached to the course or initiative. While feedback is encouraged the purpose is the evaluation. An assessment type like pass/fail is an example of summative assessment


Factors to consider in whether or not to assess

When deciding what type of assessment option you wish to use, various factors are important, including:

  • How will you indicate to your students the importance of reflection within your course or initiative?
  • How will you encourage students to engage appropriately with reflection?
  • How will you steer and influence the type of reflections your students produce?
  • Who will do the assessment? (you, staff, students as peers, or students for themselves)
  • What resources are required?
  • Are assessment criteria and rubrics required? (guidance available below)

Developing a clear idea of what you believe ‘good’ reflective output looks like, and how you will engage your students with this, can help inform answers to these questions – prompts to consider as well as fuller information on the factors in the bullet points are included in the link below.

Guidance on factors to consider in whether or not to assess


When are assessment criteria or rubrics required?

When you set a reflective task you influence what students produce – this is true whether or not you actually tell them what you want. This influence will only benefit your students if you are clear in communicating your expectations. You can communicate your expectations through:

  • Assessment criteria describe the characteristics that students’ work should demonstrate.
  • Assessment rubrics describe the quality for those criteria at particular levels and a scoring strategy.

If you are just suggesting reflection as something voluntary, criteria are not strictly required. However, it can still be helpful for students to have an idea of what ‘good’ looks like. Communicating this through criteria or guidance can be a good approach.

Similarly, if you require reflection ‘for completion’ there is no judgement of quality and therefore – while highly recommended – assessment criteria are not strictly essential.

The table below provides guidance on when assessment criteria and assessment rubrics are required for different types of assessment.

Type of assessment/task Assessment criteria Assessment rubric
Voluntary Desirable Not required
For completion Desirable (it is highly recommended and would be unusual not to) Not required
Pass/fail (a type of summative) Essential Required (you should define the lowest acceptable quality)
Formative Essential Desirable (helpful when providing feedback)
Summative Essential Required

Guidance and examples of assessment criteria and rubrics are available at the links below.

Assessment criteria (within the Facilitators’ Toolkit)

Assessment rubrics (within the Facilitators’ Toolkit)


Conclusion and next steps

The higher the proportion of a course mark you assign to a reflective task, the more influence you have around what students are doing. Using this influence to guide students toward obtaining your initiative’s learning outcomes is key. As with all assessments, there is a workload attached. However, assessment can increase the likelihood of students actively and meaningfully engaging with the reflective task. Suggesting voluntary reflection as a part of a course is possible but reduces the chances that students will actually engage - especially as reflection may take time to do well.

If you want to use reflection in your course but do not want to assess it or want to make it ‘for completion’, you might want to consider using a reflective activity – these are run with students in contact hours and are easier to include without assessment.

For further information and pros and cons of certain types of assessment for assignments and activities, see the links below.

Assignments Assignment’ refers to any task completed in the reflector’s own time outside of lectures/workshops etc. such as reflective projects, essays, or journals. These may or may not be assessed.
Activities Activity’ refers to any task completed during lectures/workshops, where time has been set aside for the reflector, such as reflective discussions, group work, journal writing (with protected time), or presentations. These may or may not be assessed.