Do you ever ask your students to reflect on their learning? If someone was to ask your students, “how do you learn?” would they really know how they learn best? A few years ago, I worked at a charter school where student reflection was part of the school culture. Students understood how to assess their own learning and how to ask the teacher for the things they needed in order to learn better. It was a whole school movement, so students were learning how to reflect in every class and in multiple styles. It was something I took for granted because when I moved from the charter school to public school, I quickly realized that students in other schools didn’t know how to reflect. They didn’t really know to tell what methods worked best for them, if they had learned or how to assess their role in the learning. This was something I set out to change.
As an adult, I reflect every day in my job, family life, choices I made and choices I need to make, but I can’t expect my students to just know how to do that? After a couple of years of trial and error, doing my own reflection of what worked at the charter school and assessing why it worked, I developed these 5 Steps to teaching students to reflect. I can’t expect students to do something they haven’t been taught.
I start the year with the 5 Steps to Student Reflection posters hung around the room. I don’t say much about them for the first few weeks, but use the language in my lessons, as warm up/exit tickets questions, introducing them to the idea of reflection without making it “something we have to do in this class”. Gradually I introduce them to each step through mini-lessons and examples.
What did I learn?
What did I do?
Why was it important?
How well did I do?
What can I take away from this?
Once I’m fairly confident that students understand the steps and have demonstrated an understanding of reflection, I introduce the questions to students. There are two sets of questions, one that if for the end of a unit or project and one that if for the end of a Semester class or End of Year. Some of the questions I’ve used as exit questions so students have seen them before. The intent is not just answer the questions, but to be honest about their learning. Students that are honest about what they have done to learn, will become better learners. It is not about putting themselves down if they didn’t do their best, but helping them realize that learning is an action, not just sitting in class. For this reason, I do not grade the reflection. I have however, used student answers to confer with students and show them where they can improve, helping them see their own learning. Ideally, students would take the process learned in your class to their other classes.
It doesn’t take much to incorporate student reflection in your classroom. After students learn the steps, you have a basis for ongoing, continuous conversation about learning.