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Social-Emotional Learning: How to Implement Reflection Rubrics

Social-Emotional Learning: How to Implement Reflection Rubrics

Help your students reflect on their emotions with these strategies.

In their book Social and Emotional Learning in the Classroom, William Ribas, Deborah Brady, and Jane Hardin provide strategies for incorporating a social-emotional learning curriculum into the classroom. The book provides reflection rubrics, which are useful for helping students develop goal-setting, reflection, and self-assessment skills. This can empower students both in and out of the classroom.

This year, I'm responsible for a freshman advisory group at the high school where I teach. My students were having a hard time transitioning from middle school to high school, which their grades reflected. They found it challenging to get to school on time, hand in assignments when they were due, and put forth the necessary effort to succeed. I turned to Social and Emotional Learning in the Classroom for help, and found that it made a significant impact on my advisory students.

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The book's authors point out that goal-setting with students can help them with self-management and self-monitoring, and it can be beneficial to start this as early as kindergarten. The book contains several rubrics for helping students to recognize the habits of a successful student. What I liked most about each one was that it supported social-emotional development while also reinforcing high expectations and goals by defining and measuring both the quality and degree of a student's progress. When given clear expectations, students can improve their behavior and succeed.

Because my advisory students didn't seem to recognize the correlation between their grades and the issues they were having with punctuality and meeting deadlines, I decided to implement the book's goal-setting weekly reflection rubric. This asks students to rate their own performance with respect to assignment completion, attendance and tardiness, and effective effort. The students rate themselves on a scale of one to four based on how consistently they demonstrate a particular skill.

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The book's authors note that this push toward increasing self-awareness helps students to grow and mature. Asking students to acknowledge and regulate their behavior increases their academic and social growth.


Next, the rubric asks students to define their goals for a particular period of time. Research has shown that goal-setting helps students become resourceful, and is linked with self-confidence, motivation, autonomy, and success. Setting goals is a critical piece of social-emotional learning, and my students meet with me to chart their progress on their goals, discuss the obstacles that stand in the way of achievement, and plan how they will hurdle them.


In the reflection portion of the rubric, students are asked to reflect on what they found difficult or challenging that week, as well as what they could have done to help solve these problems. The students are also required to write down what they were successful at and why.

One student in my advisory, for example, had previously written that he was having trouble completing his biology homework, and he noted that it was because he played computer games for hours on end. When he limited himself to two hours of play, his biology grade went up. He realized that limiting his playtime and forcing himself to get his work done helped him earn a higher grade.

Reflecting on issues like these helps students see the connection between effort and achievement. Once a student realizes this correlation, they almost always improve.

Missing Assignments

Finally, the rubric provides a space for missing assignments with their due dates and the plan for making up the work. Having a concrete strategy helps motivate students and spurs them toward success. One student came running back to my classroom after school to show me that she had made up all her assignments, and she told me she felt so relieved. Writing each assignment down helped her to realize exactly what she needed to do and when.

How to Implement the Rubrics in Your Classrooms

Ribas, Brady, and Hardin advise that if your students have never used self-assessment rubrics before, teachers should start small, perhaps with two or three areas of assessment. Be sure to provide frequent feedback for students.

I conference with each one of my advisory students after they complete their weekly reflection, and we examine challenges and celebrate successes. My students have remarked that they enjoy our conferences, which help them be accountable and enable them to feel like they are in control. Teachers can then build on the students' success by adding more areas of assessment to the rubrics.

Further reading: Mental Health Awareness in Schools

A social-emotional learning curriculum can include a myriad of components. Using reflection rubrics in the classroom is just one way for teachers to support a student's social-emotional development. Through self-assessment, self-regulation, and self-management, students can see that behavioral changes can lead to success.