June 5, 2012

It's not enough and we don't have it right

One of the things that I've been focusing on this year, with myself and my students, is reflection. As I am approaching the end of the year I need to look at how reflection has been used in my classroom - by my students - and in my practice as a teacher.

This year has been a much stronger use of reflection by my students. For each of the grading periods, every six weeks, they have reflected on their performance as a student in their work and given themselves a grade based on their effort and output. It has been rewarding for me to see them work through this process. I know it is very difficult for students to reflect on themselves for multiple reasons. One is that they almost never authentically reflect. Teachers are typically there to do that for them. The other reason is that it is a lot of work. Thinking back to your work and finding the mistakes, even in the quest to improve on them, is hard work for anyone. But they did well with it and I'm proud of my classes for engaging in that work.
But, it's not enough and it's not the right way. Students can't wait an entire 5-6 weeks to reflect on their work. 

They need to reflect regularly.

This does raise other issues though. How much is enough and how much is too much? Students need to reflect often enough to keep the work that they are doing fresh in their memories, otherwise the reflection is not powerful enough. At the same time, the students can't reflect so often that they are resentful of the process, or they are unable to complete their work due to a lack of time.

Another area is interest is getting students to reflect in a productive way - one that promotes greater engagement and creativity. If students struggle with the work, then they not only need to understand why, but create solutions to that problem. Part of solving that may be redesigning the work outside of its original scope. Does a writing project need to be a writing project in its traditional sense?

How can I reframe the goals of the projects and units in order to provide students with the greatest flexibility?

These are answers that I am eager to pursue as I continue teaching. Even while working within the limits of the current educational system these goals are possible.

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