Reflection Toolkit

Factors to consider in whether or not to assess

When deciding whether to assess reflection, various factors are important. This page explores some of the main aspects.

Term How it is used in this section
Assessment Refers to when one or more person judges how well a completed task meets specific criteria.
Assignment Refers to any task completed in the reflector’s own time outside of lectures/workshops, such as reflective projects, essays, or journals. These may or may not be assessed.
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.


When deciding whether you want to assess your students’ reflective work, various factors should be considered:

  • How will you indicate to your students the importance of reflection within your course or initiative?
  • Do you have a clear idea of what ‘good’ reflective output would look like from your students?
  • 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, students for themselves)
  • What resources are required?
  • Are assessment criteria and rubrics required? (guidance available below)

The key aspects are discussed below, along with how you can approach these with and without using assessment.

The main points are:

  • Students are likely to view the reflective task as more important and are more likely to engage meaningfully if it contributes to their overall course mark.
  • If you choose to formally assess reflection, you should have clear definitions of both assessment criteria and rubrics. Moreover, you should clearly communicate what the reflective output needs to include to meet these.
  • Choosing not to formally assess reflection makes it easier to have high levels of freedom around the types of reflection students might do, but also risks students not reflecting deeply.
  • Activities inside contact hours are easier to run without assessment than assignments completed outside contact hours, but these require you to clearly communicate your motivation for the activity to ensure students will see its value.

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 the questions above. This page starts with some prompts to get you started.


What does ‘good’ look like?

Developing an idea of what you want a ‘good reflection’ to look like can help you decide how crucial it is that you assess. If you have a very clear and specific idea of what a good reflection looks like, assessment may help ensure that students produce something in line with your thinking. If you just want students to try reflection or to be aware of it, allowing it to be solely voluntary or ‘for completion’ may be the right thing.

You can begin defining your expectations by asking yourself:

  • What do I think good reflection looks like?
  • What will students need to demonstrate in the reflective task to make it helpful for achieving my learning outcomes?
  • To what extent do I want students’ reflections to be similar to my idea of good reflection? Is it enough they just reflect?


Indicating what you believe is important

Through assessment

Multiple studies have found that students use whether or not a specific task is assessed as an indicator for the importance you attach to it as a facilitator. Therefore, when including reflection in your initiative, you must think about what signal you want to send to students through what you choose to assess and how you assess it. For:

  • assignments (tasks completed outside contact hours) – importance is often signalled through the allocation of course marks
  • activities (tasks completed inside contact hours) – importance is often signalled through the fact contact time is being spent on the activities.

In general, because activities occur during contact hours they can be slightly more challenging to assess than assignments. In that sense, a reflective activity does not differ from any other in-class/in-course activity you run. However, by assessing an activity you can reduce the proportion of students who might not engage with the activity as you intend.

Through clear rationale

Regardless of whether or not you assess, communicating the reason for a task helps show its importance and allows you to influence the type and focus of the undertaken reflection. See ‘How do I introduce reflection?’ for more information.

How do I introduce reflection? (within the Facilitators’ Toolkit)


Driving deeper engagement with reflection

Through assessment

Students are more likely to engage critically or fully with a reflective task where some form of assessment is involved especially formative or summative assessment. If you choose to make reflections voluntary or simply ‘for completion’ but without a formal assessment of its quality, this can reduce the extent or depth to which students engage with some students not engaging at all.

Moreover, many students are new to reflective tasks and therefore if you choose not to assess, it reduces the likelihood that they will take the time to understand what they have to do, and then actually doing it. This also limits the influence you have over the shape of your students’ reflections, potentially reducing the benefit for your course/initiative or your students.

Through clearly described requirements, benefits and alignment

As highlighted in ‘How do I introduce reflection?’, it is important to spend time explaining to students what is required and what good reflection looks like. However, students tend to become frustrated and pay less attention if course time is spent on aspects they find irrelevant. This could be if students do not see how teaching will help them for an assessment or some directly-related course knowledge; therefore the benefits of your reflective element need to be made clear.

How do I introduce reflection? (within the Facilitators’ Toolkit)

Any non-assessed reflective task will automatically become a teaching strategy and should therefore help students achieve learning outcomes or prepare them for an assessment. Making sure your task does so, and you have clearly communicated this alignment in your teaching will help with student engagement, even if you do not assess. See ‘’Should I use reflection in my initiative?’ for more information on alignment in teaching.

Should I use reflection in my initiative? (within the Facilitators' Toolkit)


Steering and influencing students’ reflection

Through assessment

By assessing you are able to directly steer the type of reflections students produce. Students will produce their reflection with you as an audience, seeking to deliver on your expectations and criteria (see ‘reflection with an audience’ for a full discussion). You are able to use this influence to determine what students reflect on, the format and structure used, the overall approach taken, and potentially how any learning from the reflection can be used in other parts of your course or initiative.

Authenticity and reflection as performance – reflection with an audience (within the Facilitators’ Toolkit)

Through rationale and requirements

Without assessment, you can influence the reflections students produce by being clear about:

  • what the rationale for the activity or assignment is
  • what you expect from it
  • the value students should get from completing it

See ‘How do I introduce reflection?’ for more information.

How do I introduce reflection? (within the Facilitators’ Toolkit)


Who will do the assessment?

Both formative and summative assessments can be peer-assessed. Moreover, it is possible for students to self-assess, which in itself requires a reflective approach. Some of the pros and cons linked with assessment by staff or by students are described in detail in the sections below.

Assessing assignments (tasks completed outside contact hours)

Assessing activities (tasks completed inside contact hours)


What resources are required?

When evaluating the resources required to assess a reflective task, some of the main aspects to consider are:

  • your time as a facilitator
  • the time contributed by any colleagues
  • the time required to develop ideas, supporting materials and guidance for students and any other staff involved
  • the time required to implement your plans

Across the reflectors’ and facilitators’ sections of the Reflection Toolkit, you will find a range of materials on which you can draw – guidance, ideas of reflective tasks, examples of practice from colleagues, language and structure in academic reflective writing, and example assessment criteria and rubrics. If you would like to discuss your ideas, plans or context, please get in touch.

Reflectors’ Toolkit

Facilitators’ Toolkit

Contact us


Next steps

With these considerations in mind, you are hopefully better equipped to answer whether or not you should assess. Returning to the page ‘Should I assess?’ will highlight one last important aspect, namely a breakdown of when assessment criteria become required. This information is essential and different assessment types will required more developed and explicit criteria, which might add to your workload.

This should be that last piece of the puzzle in deciding whether to assess.

Back to ‘Should I assess?’