Battling the Boss

Students can self-monitor their understanding and determine when they are ready to assess their understanding by Battling the Boss
157 teachers like this strategy
Battling the Boss Explanation

About This Strategy

Battling the Boss focuses on supporting students to self-monitor their understanding of a concept or skill in order to determine when they will assess their understanding of that skill. Due to the importance of student agency, goal-setting, and reflection to this strategy, it should be used with middle school and high school students. To begin the strategy, the student reflects on their understanding of material covered in the flipped or self-paced learning activities he has completed. The student lets the teacher know that he is ready to "battle the boss," which means he is ready to take a paper-and-pencil, digital, or verbal assessment on the material or skill. The teacher shares an assessment with the student or uses probing questions to verbally assess the student's understanding. If the student demonstrates that he has mastered the skill, he moves ahead to new material. If the student does not demonstrate mastery, the teacher provides a differentiated support (i.e. playlist, video resource, additional activity, etc.) before the student battles the boss again. This strategy can be used at any point in a lesson as a formative or summative assessment and can be differentiated based on the needs of the student. Through this strategy, students are empowered to self-monitor and make choices based on their learning needs, and teachers are provided with the assessment data they need in order to differentiate instruction.

Implementation Steps

60 minutes
  1. Design a unit of instruction focused on self-paced learning where students have the opportunity to choose when they will assess their understanding of a concept or skill. This can be done in a self-paced, mastery-based classroom or within a window of time students have to complete a series of activities (i.e. a playlist).

    • One way to prepare students to determine when they are ready to battle the boss or demonstrate their knowledge to their teacher is to support them in setting academic goals and reflecting on those goals. Goal setting and reflection will help students build the skills they need to self-monitor their understanding and use their data to determine if they are ready to be assessed.

  2. Give each student the opportunity to battle the boss when she is ready to show her mastery of the content. This can be done via a paper and pencil test, digital assessment, and/or verbal question probing.

  3. Assess whether the student has demonstrated mastery of the content and is able to move on to the next set of material. If she is ready, allow her to move on to new material. If the student is unable to demonstrate her mastery, provide additional means for the student to build an understanding of the material. Consider providing the student with a playlist of resources or an additional activity to build an understanding of the material.

Battling the Boss in Distance Learning

Romain Bertrand
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

If you are able to meet synchronously 1:1 with students, create an on-demand opportunity for students to join you for a short 1:1 authentic assessment live with you to determine if they have truly mastered a skill. Alternatively, create an asynchronous opportunity for students to show you that they mastered a skill when they self-assess that they are ready for it.

Implementation Steps - Synchronous 1:1 Battle the Boss in Distance Learning: 

  1. Create blocks of time in your schedule (similar to office hours) during which students can join you live for a "1:1 battle of the boss" session.
  2. Determine how your students can join you live. For example, their distance learning schedule can show when you are available for office hours and a link to your Zoom/Google Meet room can be hyperlinked in this block of time. Make sure you have set up a waiting room if you use Zoom or that you have an appointment system in place so that students can meet with you one at a time. You can use a tool like Calendly (see resource section below) to set up appointments with students.
    • If students have limited access to technology, the 1:1 "battle of the boss" session can also be done via phone. Block a portion of your office hour time for phone calls instead of video conference.
  3. In order to help you be better prepared to assess your students on the spot, create a self-assessment in Google Form that they can use to let you know that they feel ready for a Battle of the Boss session and the focus of the "battle" (Standard, Concept, Lesson,etc...). Make sure the settings of your Google Form are such that you get notified when your students are ready for a Battle of the Boss.
  4. Prior to your office hours, prepare a set of interview questions and or task cards that could help you assess in a short 3-5 minutes their understanding of a concept. For example, you can use problem-attic (see resource below) to quickly create a set of questions that you can use on the battle the boss task.
  5. Be prepared to recommend for students a self-paced resource they can re-visit if they do not reach mastery during the Battle. It is also a great opportunity for feedback and live teaching to help them understand what they are still missing. Take a look at the Hyperdoc pathway strategy below for examples of self-paced learning pathways for students
  6. Encourage students to reschedule a battle with you in the next few days and after having engaged with the Self-Paced activity.

Implementation Steps - Asynchronous Battle the Boss in Distance Learning: 

  1. Create a Flipgrid or a Padlet in shelf mode (columns in padlet) allowing students to post a message for you that they are ready for a battle. Make sure that they let you know the focus of that battle as your students might be all working at different paces.
  2. If you are using Padlet, make sure that the settings are such that you can be notified when a student posts a message in their column
  3. Once a student posted a video in Flipgrid or a message in Padlet, record for them a short video with the battle of the boss questions you would like them to answer to show mastery
  4. Students will then be prompted to respond to you via video in Flipgrid or in a variety of ways in a Padlet (video, audio, text, drawing, etc.)
  5. Let your students know if they won the battle or not by responding in a Flipgrid with your own video or in the Padlet via the type of comment of your choice
  6. If a student has not won the battle, use the tool selected (flipgrid, padlet, etc.) to give them feedback and to recommend a self-paced activity they should do before requesting another battle with you.

Special Education Modification

Nedra MassenburgDEMO
Special Education Specialist

Battling the Boss allows students to identify their skill gaps and strengths, track their progress, and leads to their ability to decide on a path change, advocate for support, and set goals.   

Effective use of Battling the Boss requires teachers to prepare for the bevy of skills they require from students including executive functioning (task initiation, prioritization, working memory, etc.) skills, written expression skills, reading skills, and/or verbal skills.  In order to support students with disabilities who have difficulty in these areas consider the following modifications:


  1. Traditional paper-based, written methods of assessment may limit the ability of students with disabilities to demonstrate their learning. In conjunction with traditional assessments, consider giving these students the opportunity to demonstrate their learning through: conferences, take-home reflections, oral presentations or re-tellings, learning logs, graphic organizers, cloze exercises, visual/image representation, etc. See the "Differentiation Techniques" resource in the resource section below for more information.
  2. Use visual aids, timers and verbal reminders to help students with task initiation and task completion during goal setting.  Depending upon the number of students with disabilities present in a classroom, teachers should consider increasing the amount of time they spend on expliciting teaching norms for Battling the Boss. 

  3. If multiple teachers are present in a setting, consider having one teacher work in a small group of students with disabilities to provide them more modeling and more frequent feedback on progress toward their goals in Battling the Boss.  Teachers should also consider having more frequent celebrations for progress towards goals shown by learners with more intensive disabilities.


EL Modification

Shannon Coyle
English Learner Specialist

Battling the Boss is a great way to provide rich and authentic academic language practice for English learners. Learners are guided through mastery and self-assessment activities and are given the agency to determine when they are ready to show what they know. 

English learners may be required to use all four domains of language, reading, writing, speaking, and listening during the activities leading up to and including Battling the Boss. In order to support English Learners consider the following modifications:


  1. Ensure assessments are fair, accurate assessments of learners. Consider accommodating, modifying, or creating alternative assessments for English learners that aim to distinguish between linguistic and content mastery. Consider partnering with learners’ language specialist. See the resources in the resource section below for more information.
  2. Provide a variety of ways for learners at lower levels of proficiency to present their learning including visually and with limited, scripted, or pre-recorded speaking. Consider cloze exercises, portfolios, learning logs, oral presentations, 1:1 conferences. Consult learners’ language specialist and use data about learners’ language levels to determine appropriate assessment formats.  See the resources in the resource section below for more information.
  3. Consider adding language assessment to content assessment. Conveying knowledge and information, and interacting with teachers and peers are important parts of mastering any skill for English learners. Use learner-friendly rubrics to evaluate language skills used to show content mastery. See example rubrics in the resource section below.

Coach Tips

Jessi Anderson
BetterLesson Instructional Coach

As a teacher who implemented this strategy in my self-paced classroom, I can tell you that establishing a classroom culture where self-monitoring and self-assessing are encouraged and expected is essential to the success of this strategy. When I used this strategy with my students, it was used in a self-paced, blended classroom. Students were moving at their own pace through curriculum and self-assessing when they were ready. Due to the variability of students at different spots in the curriculum, it was much easier to do one-on-one conversations as assessments. When implementing this strategy, you'll need to consider how many students will likely need to do the assessment around the same time. This will help you determine what type of assessment options you should give your students.

Tech Tools: HyperDoc


  • A HyperDoc can be used to provide structure and detail for a self-paced activity where students are assessing at different times. A HyperDoc can be designed from templates or created from scratch using a word processing program. Students can type directly into these documents or use them as a guide for learning a concept or skill.

  • HyperDocs can be easily designed or modified to match the structure of your classroom. If using a Google Doc or Slides for the HyperDoc, students can easily make a copy, write inside the document, and submit their responses for review. Additionally, if only portions of the document need to be modified for a learner, the teacher can make a copy and modify the sections that need to be changed.