Giving students the chance to reflect on what they are learning, what their strengths are and what their challenges are, can help boost their confidence and improve their performance.
This time of the school year, known as the testing season, provides the opportunity for teachers to do just that – provide students with the opportunity to reflect on their learning, their learning goals, how they will know when they are succeeding, and what their goals are for their personalized learning.
According to Anna Durfee (Edutopia, March 2018), reflection is an analysis of our performance. It aids in deeper learning and helps us perform better in the future because it boosts our sense of self-efficacy–the feeling that we’re capable of achieving our goals.
That sense of self-efficacy is also at the heart of student empowerment, the sense that students are partners in their education and indeed, are drivers in their education. That self-efficacy is also at the heart of metacognition–awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes.
Donna Wilson writes, “A student who is excited about being in the driver’s seat and steering toward learning success may well be destined to become an independent thinker on the way to charting a responsible course for school, career, and life. Being metacognitive can be likened to being more conscious, reflective, and aware of one’s progress along the learning path.
In the case of my own daughter, metacognition and self-reflection have played a huge role in her success as a musician. During her practice, she quite often stops to consider how she is playing her instrument, a medieval flute, and whether her technique is producing the sound she is after. Reflecting on that and then, perhaps, changing her technique is something I’ve watched her do time and again as she seeks to become better.
As a family, we often ended our day talking about the highs and lows of the day. We were purposeful about listening and speaking our reflections about the day that was ending and how we wanted the next day to unfold. When we first started doing this, some of the responses were very surface level, but as time went on the responses were deeper, more meaningful, more likely to trigger change in behavior, outlook, or emotions.
As teachers, we have a responsibility to help our students reflect on their learning. Anna Durfee suggests a strategy that uses shapes to help guide reflection. The teacher draws a triangle, a square, and a circle on the board. The question for the triangle is, “What three concepts am I taking away from this experience/lesson?” For the square, “What about the lesson squares with my beliefs?” and for the circle, “What questions are still circling my mind?”
The protocol is supposed to be short and approachable. Using something like this at the end of an activity where you introduced a new concept can be extremely helpful for students. It also can be used as a bridge to a subsequent activity. As a formative assessment, this kind of protocol can be invaluable in showing you what students have learned and what they know.
Reflection about our learning comes in all shapes and sizes, protocols both long and short. But sometimes the simplest questions like, “what worked well during reading circles today?” to “What felt most successful today?” and then, “Why did I reach my goals today?” or even, “Why didn’t I reach my goals today?” can guide a student’s metacognition and ultimately lead to improved learning.