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by Nicole Lauzon, OCT, Educational Consultant, LDAO


The use of checklists and achievement charts is effective in supporting student learning. These tools encourage students to play an active role, not only in their assessments, but in the learning process.

The simple act of establishing objectives and criteria with your students allows them to progress, because they will have a better understanding of what they need to do to reach their full potential.

checklists and marker


Checklists are assessment tools that set out specific criteria, which educators and students may use to gauge skill development or progress. Checklists may be used with students from JK to Grade 12 and for every subject. Checklists set out skills, attitudes, strategies, and behaviours for evaluation and offer ways to systematically organize information about a student or group of students.

Generally speaking, checklists consist of a set of statements that correspond to specific criteria; the answer to each statement is either “Yes” or “No”, or “Done” or “Not Done”. A student, a group of students or an entire class may use checklists; they may be “single use” or designed for multiples usage.

The Purpose of Checklists

  • To provide tools for systematically recording observations;
  • To provide students with tools that they can use for self-evaluation;
  • To provide examples of criteria for students at the beginning of a project or learning activity;
  • To document the development of the skills, strategies, attitudes, and behaviours that are necessary for effective learning; and
  • To identify students’ learning needs by summarizing learning to date.

Checklists can also be used to communicate a student’s learning to his/her parents.

For a student with learning disabilities (LDs), the simple act of creating and using a checklist may bring a level of order into their life that was previously missing. Executive functions, which are the different cognitive processes that students use to control their own behaviour, may be an area of weakness for students with LDs and ADHD, so providing them with strategies to overcome these weaknesses is extremely important.

Click here to access the article Understanding Executive Function and Learning Disabilities.

Checklists can also play a role in a student’s ability to self-assess, along with a variety of other tools.

Click here to read LD@school’s article Self-Assessment.

Create Your Own Checklists

To create checklists, teachers must:

  • Take the current learning outcomes and standards for the curriculum and current units of study into account;
  • Ensure that descriptors and indicators are clear, specific, and easy to observe;
  • Encourage students to help create appropriate indicators. For example, what are the indicators for a persuasive text?
  • Ensure that checklists, marking schemes, and achievement charts are dated, in order to document progress during a specific period of time;
  • Ensure that checklists provide space for anecdotal comments because interpretation is often appropriate;
  • Use generic models so that the students become accustomed to them and so that criteria and indicators can be added quickly, based on the activity being assessed.
  • Encourage students to create and use their own checklists, so that they can assess themselves and set learning goals for themselves.

Achievement Charts

Achievement charts are guidelines that set standards for performance or products. They are based on standards, and contain a series of indicators for each level of performance. They are assessment tools that document performance on the basis of clearly defined criteria. They enable educators to perform in-depth assessments and are developed by both educators and students.

Benefits of Achievement Charts

  • Compared to checklists, they convey more specific data about teaching and assessment;
  • They clearly explain what is expected of students at the beginning of a project or task;
  • They contain specific indicators of quality upon which to base judgments;
  • They enable students to evaluate their own work or receive feedback from classmates;
  • They allow for a specific and comprehensive assessment of a student’s strengths, as well as areas of a skill or subject where there is room for improvement;
  • They enable students to set criteria for creating high-quality products and recognising the quality of the processes they use.

To the extent possible, achievement charts should be created with student participation. To start, explain what high-quality work consists of. Once the “standard” has been set, it is easy to define satisfactory performance and unsatisfactory performance.

The best achievement charts have three to five levels to allow for objective assessment of a product or task.

These charts are particularly useful when they have been refined and grouped together in a series of samples of work illustrating what is acceptable and what is outstanding. Students then have a set of examples of work from which to draw for inspiration.

Achievement charts for high school students may be used for marking. Have each mark correspond to a level of performance and then calculate the total mark.

Related Resources on the LD@school Website

Click here to access the article Understanding Executive Function and Learning Disabilities.

Click here to read LD@school’s article Self-Assessment.

Click here to access the video Building Self-Advocates: A key to student success.

Additional Resources

The canLEARN Society has created sample checklists that students can use to evaluate their own work and to refer to when they are stuck in class. Click here to access the checklists and an article on self-regulation.

A Guide to Effective Instruction in Writing, Kindergarten to Grade 3 offers classroom educators of primary students a variety of practical approaches to help students develop writing skills. The role of checklists is explored in great detail throughout the guide and a number of writing checklists are provided in Chapter 7: Assessment and Evaluation. Click here to access the guide and sample checklists.

This checklist was developed by an Ontario educator and can be used by students from grades 4 – 8 to self-assess in areas identified on the Ontario Report Card. It allows students to reflect on areas for improvement and to set goals. Click here to access the checklist.


Winebenner, S. (2008). D. Demers adaptation of Teaching Kids with Learning Difficulties in the Regular Classroom entitled Enseigner aux élèves en difficulté en classe régulière. Montreal: Les Éditions de la Chenelière.

Arpin, L and Capra, L. (2001) L'apprentissage par projets. Montreal: Les Éditions de la Chenelière.

Manitoba Ministry of Education, Citizenship, and Youth. French Language Education Division (2005). Des outils pour favoriser les apprentissages : ouvrage de référence pour les écoles de la maternelle à la 8e année. Available at:  http://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/m12/frpub/ped/gen/outils_app/docs/document_complet.pdf