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7 Tools to Promote Reflective Thinking

7 Tools to Promote Reflective Thinking

By Joshua Elliott

There are many articles and a lot of research about the importance of critical thinking. Another important process to use in the classroom, that’s not talked about quite as much, is reflective thinking.

Whereas critical thinking focuses on analysis and evaluation of a book or a problem, reflective thinking focuses on evaluating the learning process itself. Reflective thinking allows the students to take a look at how they’re approaching a problem, and think of better ways to attack it.

“…Becoming a rigorous and reflective thinker means adopting a certain ethical stance: habitual skepticism with respect to one’s own views, a charitable attitude toward the views of others, and a recognition that getting to the bottom of things together always matters more than winning a dispute.” – Derek D. Turner, Connecticuit College

Here are some technologies and strategies to promote reflective thinking in your classroom.

1. GoSoapBox

go soapbox_reflective thinking

This tool provides multiple assessment tools that students can access through their devices. These tools include short answer and a thumbs-up and thumbs-down indicator. This indicator is an icon that conveys a level of understanding in regards to whatever topic is being discussed in class.

This presents an opportunity for the teacher to discuss the misunderstanding and talk with them about how they’re addressing the problem. Teachers can then let the students break into groups, where they can use reflective thinking to re-address the concept, figure out why they didn’t understand it then and how they arrived at the understanding they have now.

This process helps them become better learners and makes you a better teacher.

2. TodaysMeet

This tool is a backchannel resource. Backchannels are resources that allow students to have discussions in the background during class. Some benefits of backchannels are that they allow for a formal and regulated area in which students can discuss what is happening in class.

TodaysMeet allows students to discuss the process during class and then to reflect afterwards: What made the most sense? What was the most interesting? What stood out the most as being interesting or difficult? Use a tool like this for homework, allowing students to continue the conversation in a constructive way.

3. Blogging

Students can use blogs to write about how they’re doing in class. Possible blogging tools include WordPress, Blogger, Kid Blog and EduBlogs. Once set up, you can use blogging to give students reflective thinking time every week. For example, students have to choose one lesson from the week and answer a number of questions that encourage reflective thinking, such as:

  • What did you learn from this lesson?
  • What other connections did you make?
  • How does this relate to other concepts from this week?
  • What was most difficult for you to understand?

The questions will need to be tweaked for the age of the students, making them more difficult or easy to answer.

Learn more about how to bring blogging into your classroom with these resources:

How to Foster Virtual Inclusion With a Classroom Blog

50 Fun Blog Prompts for Students

4. Socrative


Socrative is a student response resource that can be accessed through various devices. It includes options for quick questions and exit tickets that can be used in class to facilitate reflective thinking.

Here is a link to a presentation about Socrative and GoSoapBox, which is mentioned above: Online and Smartphone Resources for Improving Classroom Engagement and Assessment

5. Google Groups

Google Groups is an asynchronous discussion forum. In other words, several people can have a discussion with each other without being “present” at the same time. The discussions are threaded in nature to maintain the structure and flow of the conversation.

Among other things, students can reflect on their progress on a particular assignment or their overall performance in class. Here are a few more ways to use Google Groups in the Classroom.

6. Google Drive

One way I incorporate reflective thinking in my classes is by having students write a weekly reflection in a shared Google Folder. Once a week, they respond to the following questions:

  • What did you learn this week?
  • What went well?
  • What did not go well?
  • What do you need to do to keep improving in class?

Learn more about my experiences with student reflections here.

7. Whooo’s Reading


Reflective thinking is important when looking back on the reading that students just finished. Whooo’s Reading is a tool that can easily facilitate this process.

Students answer standard-aligned questions that are open-ended, allowing them to answer any one, regardless of what book they read.

Students can also choose to write “a blog post,” which is a longer format response opportunity. Both these and the regular questions encourage students to think deeper about the text and reflect on how the reading went for them. This gives them a chance to exercise reflective thinking regularly, in a structured fashion.

Nobody argues that critical thinking is important and I would argue that reflective thinking is just as important. Reflective thinking requires students to think about the process they are following while working on a project, for example. It gives them an opportunity to refine and hone their work habits and strategies. They can then apply those improved habits and strategies to future challenges.

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