Image: Brad Flickinger
As I begin this New Year, I find myself reflecting on the experiences I have had over the past year. This reflection gives me the opportunity to learn from my experiences and to set goals for the New Year. Of course, learning through reflection does not have to be a once-a-year event. Rather, reflection should be a daily habit as a means to grow and improve. Isn’t this what we want from our students—to be reflective learners. The question is, “How can we help our students learn through reflection so that it becomes a daily habit?”
One answer to this question is to design projects with frequent opportunities to reflect both as individuals and as part of a team. By doing so, we provide them with time to think, to explore their thoughts and feelings, to gain new understandings, fresh insights, and to develop a sense of self-awareness.
Routinely asking reflective questions can prompt reflective thinking in a quick, easy manner. You might ask students either in writing or verbally . . .
- What was your significant learning today?
- How did your learning help you answer the Driving Question?
- How can you use what you learned in your life outside of school?
Equally as important is building time into the project for students and teams to reflect on feedback they receive from you, their peers, and even experts. Provide students and teams with questions to help them reflect:
- How did you use the feedback to make improvements?
- What did you learn?
- How can you apply what you learned to future work?
Using a variety of reflection strategies will also help to develop reflective thinking skills with your students. You might consider embedding in your project one more of the following reflection strategies in your next project.
Reflection through Discourse:
- Fishbowl Protocols: Once student teams have had some time to engage in research and gain a deeper understanding of the topic or issue, use a fishbowl protocol to have students reflect and share about their learning.
- Think-Pair-Share and Interviews: Engage students in discussing their learning in pairs using reflective questions as either a think-pair share or an interview.
- Be Sure to Statements: Ask students to write “be sure to” statements based on observations they make. Click on the link to watch a video demonstration of this strategy.
Reflection through Writing:
- Think-it, Ink-it, Link-it: This is a reflection strategy where students can record their answer to a question or prompt in a reflective journal, blog entry, or exit slip. With this strategy, students Think-it (think time to process the question/prompt), Ink-it (record their responses), and Link-it (connect their learning to their life or prior knowledge).
- 3-2-1 Summarizers and Exit Slips: These two strategies are typically used as a means of formative assessment but may also be used to have students reflect on their learning.
- What? So What? Now What?: Use this quick means of reflection with your students at the end of a learning session using questions that provoke thought around the questions: What? So what? Now what? This strategy can be used as an exit slip or in a learning log or reflective journal.
Reflection using Technology:
- Podcasts or Vodcasts: Audio and video journals are similar to journal writing; students record their thoughts, feelings, and responses to questions and prompts. A podcast is an audio journal while a vodcast is a video journal both shared with others. Students can create a podcast or vodcast individually or as a team to reflect on their learning and progress of the product they are creating.
- Blogs: Use a blog like you would you a reflective journal; the difference is that blogs are shared with others. Blogging can be done individually using Edublogger or Blogger or as a group using Quadblogging.
- Online Discussions: Students can engage in online discussions about their learning using the free Web 2.0 tool Proboards with reflective prompts or questions.
Establishing a culture of routine reflection does not happen by chance; it occurs with thoughtful planning where habits of continual growth and improvement are developed. With opportunity, modeling, and consistent practice, students will become reflective learners.