I just finished a class for my Masters that focused on becoming a reflective practitioner. Of course, teachers do this to some extent every time they plan a lesson, as well as when delivering the lesson (ever had something fail and you have to change mid-class to accommodate?), then again when it is over and they decide whether or not to use that lesson again in the future. Teachers do this, but is it deliberate and purposeful? Not always.
This is why the class was so eye opening for me. It led me to the conclusion that I can reflect best when I hear the voices of my students and ask them to reflect on what it is they learned throughout our course of study. Their reflections help me better understand what I did well and what they understood. While I can reflect based solely on formative and summative assessments, it doesn’t always give the whole picture. When we ask kids about what they learned, what connections they were able to make, and what effort they put in to their learning, we are able to see the bigger picture of why they may have performed well on a particular assignment or, even more importantly, why they did not.
There are different kinds of reflection. This blog post will focus only on the summative, or end of unit, reflections I use.
I use a three part unit reflection form my students. It is a bit time consuming if I want them to really dig deep and answer the questions thoughtfully. It is time well spent. Here is an example of a recent summative reflection I had my kids complete while I was conferencing one-on-one about their NWEA scores and goal setting.
A. I ask them to reflect on the standards and what they were asked to do to learn the material (e.g., what did you learn about characterization and how did you learn it?). This helps me breakdown what I taught well and what I may need to reteach, especially if I see trends in what is being written. Does everyone say they don’t know what they learned about a certain strand? If so, that strand could probably use remediation.
B. I ask them to reflect on their effort during class and outside of class (e.g., Describe your involvement in class discussions. Describe your level of effort on assessments.) This reflection helps me understand if their results and their learning are a result of something that I did, or didn’t do, or if it is because of their effort, or lack thereof. It gives context to their learning and their assessments.
C. Lastly, I ask them to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses from the unit. This allows them a little room to think about their weakness, strengths and growth over the course of a unit. This reflection helps me see gaps in their ability and their learning. Children are very honest about what they feel confident doing and what they feel they don’t get. If a child thinks writing was his/her weakness to begin with, and they tell me during the standards portion that they didn’t understand the writing organization lessons, I can address these gaps and better understand this child’s thinking about where they are and what they feel they can/can’t do. I can then reflect further on how I am meeting their needs.
Students are thoughtful as they craft ideas in these reflections and offer insight into how they see our class and the learning that takes place. I then take the data from these reflections and utilize it as I reflect on our unit and make plans going forward. It shows me what they got and what I need to remediate. It also allows me to think about the effectiveness of my instructional strategies.
Do you use student reflections in your class? Tell me how in the comments.