I’ve already spoken at length about the importance of reflection in education and how we as teachers can use reflection to help students learn. But what are some specific questions or activities we could be doing to help students reflect?
Relationships and Collaboration
1.What are some ways you could share this learning with your parents or family?
2.Could you say something positive about each of your classmates?
3.What could you do today to help you develop better relationships with your peers?
4.Why is it important for students in a school to have positive relationships with each other?
5.What are some ways in which the adults in the school could help you improve the relationships you have with your classmates?
6.What, if anything, have you done or said lately that may have been considered bullying towards other students?
7.What are some things your classmates do that help you learn?
8.What are some things your classmates do that prevent you from learning?
9.What are some things you do in the classroom that you worry might prevent others from learning?
10.What are some things you do in the classroom that you believe can help other people learn?
Trying to get students to reflect upon their learning isn’t nearly as difficult as it sounds. Virtually any mechanism that a teacher uses can be used for reflection as well. For example, consider a quick write activity followed by a partner share out.
At the end of any day’s lesson, pose a question to the class and ask them to answer it individually. Start off with something generic like “Explain how you felt about today’s class.” Then, have students turn to a partner and explain what they liked about it. After a minute or so, share out as a whole class about what the class liked about class that day. Then, repeat this process by asking students to write or share what they did not like about the day’s activity. Again, share out as a whole class. It’s important that the teacher not get defensive but rather validates the feelings of every student and models appropriate reflection.
If I touch a hot stove and burn my hand, I immediately learn that touching a hot stove results in a burned hand. My brain makes the connection almost simultaneously. There’s little need for reflection because the “hot stove=burn” connection is one that my mind makes almost immediately.
Similarly, suppose I’m driving in bad weather and going WAY TOO FAST for the conditions. If my car spins out and I find myself stuck in a ditch, I’ve learned a lesson about driving in bad weather. Again, the connection is almost instantaneous.
Academic learning however is seldom that obvious.
Let’s pretend I’m a fourth grade student, distracted by everything from cafeteria food to the playground outside my classroom window. If I fail a math test, am I immediately able to tell you why? Most kids aren’t self-aware enough or mature enough to tell you why they failed at something (or in some cases, why they got in trouble). The younger the student, the more difficult this is.
More than likely, since I’m not sure exactly WHY I failed a test, the only connection my brain makes is “Math = F”. Since most kids really do want to be successful, students also equate “F=Failure” and “Failure=Bad”. They don’t understand that failure is a part of the learning process, largely because we as teachers don’t allow students to re-do work and learn from mistakes. As a result, they come to hate the subject or the teacher, never really knowing why other than “I suck at Math.”
A lot of college level teacher training programs talk about the importance of developing a “reflective practitioner” but what exactly does this mean for the classroom teacher? If you haven’t yet accepted responsibility for student learning than it doesn’t mean much at all. You’ll have some success as a teacher and some failures which you’ll most certainly blame on any number of factors. If however you believe that all students can learn at a high level and that your performance as a teacher has a direct impact on student learning, than reflection should be an integral part of what you do.
Below you will find a list of 30 Questions Teachers should be regularly asking themselves to ensure they’re classroom is as focused on learning as they would like it to be. Feel free to beg, borrow, steal and share however you see fit.
Modeling Reflection – Questions to Ask With Students
1.Was this activity successful….why or why not?
2.If we do this again, what can I do differently to help you learn more?
3.Did this activity help you learn more than others we’ve done? Why?
Classroom Culture – Questions to Ask About Your Rules & Relationships
4.Are the relationships that I have with my students helping or hindering their ability to learn?
5.Could the problems I have in my classroom be solved by pre-teaching my expectations or developing rules/procedures to deal with these issues?
6.Was my demeanor and attitude towards my class today effective for student learning?
7.Am I excited to go to work today?
8.Are my students excited to come to my class today? (How much does #6 impact #7?)
9.What choices have I given my students lately?
10.Can I explain at least SOMETHING about each of my student’s personal lives?