Student Reflection … YES … but how?

“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.”

~ John Dewey

Nice View . . .

Creative Commons License David Robert Bliwas via Compfight

We added an unconference-style element to our in-service today with breakout sessions, lead by various staff members. I facilitated a breakout discussion on Reflection’s Role in Learning. I chose this as a topic of discussion, not because I’m an expert in it, but because I want to get better at eliciting reflection in my students. I recognize the importance of reflection in my own learning process, so naturally, I want teach my students how to use this tool. In fact, my goal is to embed it so effectively into my classroom process that it becomes an automatic response for my students.

However, achieving buy-in with students can be a challenge. Reflection can be viewed as busywork by some, as Erin Konecky, pointed out today during one of the sessions, so teaching students the WHY behind reflection is important. As the blog post “Scaffolding Student Reflection” by my Twitter friend, Rusual Alrubail reminds us, “relevance=motivation.” (However, how to gain buy-in exactly is a mystery at this point!) Erin also pointed out that students reflect all the time–it’s not necessarily a conscious act though. It more often takes the shape of a fleeting thought rather than a formal response. Moreover, these momentary reflective thoughts are not always as deep as is necessary for the full benefit of reflection. And, some students are more adept at reflection than others. So, like in all classroom processes, we must teach what we want to see.

Throughout the course of two breakout sessions, a few things became apparent:

A. We reached consensus that reflection is an important part of learning.

B. We found that we all ask students to reflect in different ways–on a wide spectrum of depth and formality. None of us have perfected it, but we’re all seeking to improve it.

C. We can’t assume that students will come to us knowing HOW to reflect. We must teach them how to reflect or formalize their existing reflection process.

D. Reflection can take different forms and offering students choices in demonstrating reflection can be beneficial for teacher and student. It can also be a very personal process, so finding ways for students to share reflection comfortably will also need to be a priority.

E. Personal growth in students is sometimes overlooked because “the system” is so focused on number grades. Reflection may be a way to honor personal growth and give a better overall picture of a whole student rather than distilling him or her to a number in the grade book.

In the first breakout, we used a variation of the “Save the Last Word For Me” discussion technique to examine Rusul’s post (linked above). We delved into the WHY student reflection is important and WHY we should be incorporating student reflection into our classroom practices and assessment. The article also gave us an opportunity to discuss what role personal growth should play in defining success for students.

In the second session, I approached the discussion a little differently. We started with the above-linked article, and then spent some time writing responses to the following questions in a padlet that I’ve embedded below. After that we used the same discussion technique as we did in the first session, but compacted the time a bit.

Made with Padlet
We had limited time today to answer the question, HOW do we use student reflection in a way that is useful to teacher and student? But it was a start!
Here are some additional questions for you to ponder in your reflection about reflection:
  • We know reflection is an important component of the learning experience. How can we convince students of reflection’s importance? 
  • How are you already using student reflection in your practice?
  • What are your concerns about using reflection in your classroom?
  • Have you seen anyone else use it successfully?
  • What were your takeaways from our brief discussion today?