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How deep is your commitment to reflective practice?
Do you maintain a reflective journal? Do you blog? Do you capture and archive your reflections in a different space?
Do you consistently reserve a bit of time for your own reflective work? Do you help the learners you serve do the same?
I began creating dedicated time and space for reflection toward the end of my classroom teaching career, and the practice has followed me through my work at the WNY Young Writer’s Studio. I’ve found that it can take very little time and yet, the return on our investment has always been significant.
Observations about reflection
- Reflection makes all of us self-aware. It challenges us to think deeply about how we learn and why and why not.
- Reflection deepens ownership. When we reflect, we become sensitive to the personal connection that exists between ourselves, our learning, and our work. The more we consider these connections, the deeper they seem to become. Reflection makes things matter more.
- Reflection helps us get comfortable with uncomfortable. It also helps us fail forward. It’s through reflection that we’ve discovered our greatest power as a writing community: our collective expertise and our willingness to encourage and celebrate risk-taking.
- Reflection helps us know ourselves better. It helps us sharpen our vision, so we can align our actions to it. Reflection also helps us notice when we’re getting off track.
- Perhaps most importantly, reflection helps us advocate for ourselves and support others. Taking the time to reflect enables us to identify what we want, what we need, and what we must do to help ourselves. It also helps us realize how our gifts and strengths might be used in service to others.
I find that often, we struggle to find time to support reflective practice. Deadlines drive instruction far too much than they should, forcing learners and teachers to value perfection, products, and grades more than the development of softer and perhaps, more significant skills. Devoting a few moments at the end of class can make a real difference though, particularly when you pitch a few powerful prompts at learners. These are the ten questions that elicit the most powerful responses from the students I work with.
Ten Reflective Questions to Ask at the End of Class
1. Reflect on your thinking, learning, and work today. What were you most proud of?
2. Where did you encounter struggle today, and what did you do to deal with it?
3. What about your thinking, learning, or work today brought you the most satisfaction? Why?
4. What is frustrating you? How do you plan to deal with that frustration?
5. What lessons were learned from failure today?
6. Where did you meet success, and who might benefit most from what you’ve learned along the way? How can you share this with them?
7. What are your next steps? Which of those steps will come easiest? Where will the terrain become rocky? What can you do now to navigate the road ahead with the most success?
8. What made you curious today?
9. How did I help you today? How did I hinder you? What can I do tomorrow to help you more?
10. How did you help the class today? How did you hinder the class today? What can you do tomorrow to help other learners more?
The learners I serve typically capture these reflections in a special section of their notebooks. These entries grow in number over the course of time, and eventually, they revisit them to prepare for conferences.
The influence that asking reflective questions has on the quality of our conferences is incredible. In fact, I hesitate to confer with kids unless they’ve had a chance to pursue purposeful reflection first.
Try it yourself. See how it makes a difference for your students. You can find a set of printable reflective prompts here.
About The Author
A former English teacher, Angela Stockman is the founder of the WNY Young Writer's Studio, a community of writers and teachers of writing in Buffalo, New York. She is also an education consultant with expertise in curriculum design, instructional coaching, and assessment. Read more from Angela at Angelastockman.com.
In a recent survey of educators conducted by THE Journal, an overwhelming number – 81 percent – considered reflection skills very important. This doesn’t come as a surprise. The ability to learn from mistakes and recognize strengths and weaknesses can make the difference between success and failure, in school and beyond.
Are you looking for some new ways to increase student reflection in the classroom? Here are 15 ideas you can try tomorrow:
1. Introduce reflection sentence frames
Help students get started by providing sentence starters like “I was surprised when…” or “I’m still wondering about….” Here’s a great source for many more.
2. Sketch reflections
Try getting your students to sketch a picture that represents what they’ve learned from a project. Remember it’s not about the quality of the art – it’s about how drawing prompts students to look at their learning from a different perspective.
3. Roll the dice
Especially with young students, putting reflection questions on dice is a fun way to vary the reflection experience. Here’s a virtual die that a teacher created using QR codes, but you can also do this the old-fashioned way by writing questions on a blank cube.
4. Teach a peer, a younger classmate or a parent
It’s often said that the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else – it’s also a natural way to reflect. Plus encouraging students to teach each other is just another way to create a student-centered collaborative classroom.
5. Share reflections with parentsOpening up a reflective dialog with parents can deepen the experience for your students. With a digital portfolio, LMS or other cloud-based solution, students can post a project, add a reflection and then get their parents to add comments.
6. Use dedicated reflection journals, blogs or vlogs
Journaling is a tried-and-true reflection activity, but these days there’s no need to restrict yourself to paper and pencil. Blogs and vlogs work just as well for getting students to regularly reflect.
7. Create reflection snowballs
This one’s not for the faint of heart, but in the right class it can be a fun way to shake things up. After a lesson, all your students write a key reflection on a sheet of paper and crumple it up. Then they toss their papers to the other side of the room. Once students catch a “snowball,” they read it, add something new and repeat.
8. Use videos
To give your students a fresh perspective on a presentation, performance or even social skill development, pull out your phone or tablet and record it. Watching themselves can give them (and you) incredible insights into their progress.
9. Write exit slips
This idea has been popular for a while for a reason – it’s a good one. Before students leave your class, ask them to quickly jot down what they’ve learned (or answer another reflection question) – it can be that simple. And if you’re looking for new ways to use exit slips, check out this Edutopia blog post.
10. Capture weekly learning highlights
On Fridays, have each student capture their number one insight of the week and post it to a shared space – you could use sticky notes on a wall or take the process digital with Nureva visual collaboration solutions. You’ll not only build reflection skills, you’ll also see at a glance what’s resonating with your students. Here's how one school used their Nureva™ Wall and Span™ software to make student thinking visible.
11. Take reflection breaks
Reflection can’t be forced, but it is a habit that can be instilled. Build reflective practice by stopping work periodically and encouraging students to record their thoughts. Eventually, students will start to reflect on their own, without teacher direction.
12. Use a reflective taxonomy
Peter Pappas’ taxonomy of reflection is a gold mine if you’re looking to approach reflection from some different angles. He’s taken Bloom’s more familiar model and mapped reflection questions to it.
13. Incorporate revision into assessment
Some of the best opportunities for reflection occur during the assessment process. Rather than having students submit work for a grade and then promptly forget about it, try giving them descriptive feedback instead and let them resubmit until they achieve mastery.
14. Teach the growth mindset
Reflection only works if students truly believe they can get better results with hard work and that intelligence isn’t a fixed trait. To help students internalize these ideas, try introducing Carol Dweck’s growth mindset concept and talk specifically about how you can talk back to the fixed mindset voice they might have.
15. Model your own reflection
Actions speak louder than words. So make sure to model the same reflection skills you teach. Don’t be quiet about it either – talk out loud through your thought process to show students that reflecting doesn’t stop once schooling is done.
Let’s keep adding to this list. What are you doing in the classroom to get students reflecting?
Are you looking for new student-led learning ideas? In this eBook, you’ll find more than 20 collaborative activities you can try in your classroom right away.