Friday, June 13, 2014

Beyond "I really liked this project"

Another school year has ended, and as I sit down to ponder what went well and what I would like to change, I once again am stumped by what I can do to improve reflection in my students.  Paolo Freire, in his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, states that reflection is an essential part of learning and of becoming an agent of change in the world:
"Within the word we find two dimensions, reflection and action, in such radical interaction that if one is sacrificed -- even in part -- the other immediately suffers . . ."

If I am to promote changes in my students' thinking and growth, I need to improve their ability to reflect. So, last summer I read everything I could on the subject and promptly set about attempting to create a classroom where reflection was a big part of our daily and weekly activities, as well as a final requirement for our projects. I made a cutesy chart that was prominently displayed and used.

I made weekly reflective blog posts a requirement, and at the end of every project assigned a reflection, which was graded on a rubric.

My prompt for the reflections went something along the lines of:
"Describe what you learned in completing the assignment, identify what went well and detail what you will improve on for next time."
Most of my students did well with just this; however, even as I tried time and time again to give pointed feedback on the reflections, about 20% of my students seldom went beyond:
"I really liked this project/assignment because I got to work with my friends..."
"Next time, I will stay on task more and not get distracted."

What to do, what to do...

Recently, I came across Edutopia's 40 reflective questions, and I particularly liked how they separated them into categories (Backward-looking, Inward-looking, Outward-looking, Forward-looking). I think that by naming them, the respondent gets into a different mindset as he/she prepares to answer.

As I move forward, I will be modifying them a little bit  to address not only the end products, but the weekly work. I will also ask students to "ACE" their answers, citing examples and non examples, as well as expanding with a "what it looks like or sounds like". Of course, there will be a rubric.

Will it work? I don't know, but I would love to hear your thoughts. How have you improved student reflection in your classroom?

Further reading:

  • Block, Joshua. "Let It Marinate: The Importance of Reflection and Closing."Edutopia. Edutopia, 18 Apr. 2014. Web. 13 June 2014. <>.
  • Boss, Suzie. "High Tech Reflection Strategies Make Learning Stick." Edutopia. Edutopia, 4 Mar. 2009. Web. 13 June 2014. <>.
  • Yoshida, Clyde. "Creating a Culture of Student Reflection: Self-Assessment Yields Positive Results." Edutopia. Edutopia, 1 July 1997. Web. 13 June 2014. <>.
  • Clements, Mark. "Using Reflection to Help Students Learn." Edunators. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2014. <>.

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