By Josh Elliott
Reflection is an essential part of learning for both students and teachers. It’s an important process for teachers to facilitate professional growth, so much so that it is included in several beginning teacher assessment programs as a way to help them reflect on ways to improve their teaching.
Reflection has an added significance for students. The word reflection appears in the Common Core State Standards 32 times and the reason for this is simple: It allows us to maximize student learning.
Reflection allows students to look back at an experience or process and easily recall the important details. This is then used as a learning base for similar future activities or processes.
Simply put, students learn more with deliberate reflection than without.
Reflection is a fairly simple concept to bring in your classroom, but is easily overlooked. Consider how you can make this a regular routine with your students with these three tech tools.
1. Google Drive
I maintain writing folders in my classes. These used to be in a milk crate in the back of the room with hanging folders that were stuffed with student work. I now use Google Drive.
In the first weeks of school, I have each of my students create a Drive folder and share it with me. Note that they’re required to use a specific naming format: Last name/Course name/Year. An example would be Elliott/American History/2015.
I require a similar naming convention for student products. This is important because it makes it easier for the teacher to navigate later as work documents start to pile up. I then add these folders to the appropriate class folders that I’ve created. I feel it’s important for the students to create and share the folders with me as part of their learning process.
Once a student creates and shares a folder with me, they’re required to create and work on all class assignments within this shared folder. The benefit of this is that students no longer need to click submit. Any work created in their shared folders is automatically available to me.
The bonus of this process is that it also allows for me to engage in formative assessments by checking student work in progress.
Every week, students write a weekly reflection. They respond to the following questions.
- What did you learn this week?
- What went well?
- What did you have trouble with?
- What do you need to do to keep moving forward in this class?
Each reflection needs to be written between Friday and Sunday night without fail. If it was a slow week or they were absent, then they can locate and write about a relevant current event.
I like to look for themes when I grade—review may be a better word—the reflections. Students get full credit for answering all the questions; I tell them that it’s not my place to disagree with what they think went well or poorly, as long as they do the work honestly and authentically.
When reviewing student reflections, look for what I call “Gotcha tests.” Students will occasionally put something strange in or ask a question to make sure I am reading them. I make it a point to always mention these to them in class so they know I read and care about what they are writing.
2. Google Forms
Google Forms allows teachers to create quick surveys or assessments. Three types of questions available are text, paragraph and scale questions. A short reflection can be created using these types of questions. For example, a reflection survey might look like this:
- Your name
- On a scale of 1 to 5, how comfortable do you feel with what we covered today in class?
- Explain your answer to question 2.
This is a simple example; there are many variations that can be created to suit your needs, specific concerns, etc. Once a student completes the form, they simply click submit to send their response to a central spreadsheet for you to see.
Socrative is a student response tool that can be accessed through the Internet as well as with apps available in the ITunes and Google Play stores. This reflection tool allows the teacher to make quizzes that students complete in class as a reflection exercise that also serves as an assessment. One type of quick assessment is called exit ticket. The student is able to respond to:
- How well did you understand today’s material?
- What did you learn in today’s class?
- Please respond to the teacher’s question. (Teacher provides verbally.)
Sometimes simple questions like this can go a long way in giving students a chance to reflect, while providing you with insight on how to improve your lessons and course materials.
The possibilities for promoting reflection are endless. These are just three simple options. Do you have any interesting ideas for getting students to reflect on their learning? Please share it in the comments below. I would love to hear your thoughts.