Reflect. Reflect. Reflect.
From the very first day of my education degree to the very last it was drilled into me that reflecting was something that I needed to do. All the time.
Did I do it actively? Yes.
Did I do it effectively? Sometimes.
Did I always write it down? Almost never and only when asked of me.
Was it helpful? Well, since I hardly ever wrote any of it down a lot of it is floating inside my head waiting to be recalled when required. If you want quantitative proof, I can’t give it to you.
What happens when I asked my students to reflect? Multiple groans around the room.
They had a point. Why should I be expecting them to actively write it down and do it when I didn’t do it myself because I found it taxing at times? Cue first attempt at getting students to actively reflect as part of an assessment = semi-fail!
“So what made it a semi-fail?” you ask. First of all, the questions. The biggest complaint that I got was: “Miss! There are too many of them!!”
These were the questions I posed for reflection:
- What key things have I learned in Food Technology this week (from the teacher, demonstrations, slides, and/or from other classmates)?
- How does this relate to what I already know?
- How can I apply what I’ve learned in Food Technology to other subjects I’m studying?
- Can I apply what I’ve learned in Food Technology to aspects of life outside the classroom?
- What was a high point of this week (mastering a new skill, being safe in the kitchen, learning how to cook something new)?
- What was the low point of this week (not being safe in the kitchen, computer crashing, taking 20 minutes just to find a pen)?
- What obstacles did I encounter this week (difficult books to read, new school to get used to, got lost)?
- What strategies did I use to overcome these obstacles (got help from someone on how to do the work, found a study partner in the classes I find challenging, cleaned my room so I could be more organised, got to school early and took a walk around to familiarise myself with where everything is)?
- What have I learnt about myself as a learner this week (strengths and weaknesses, how I learn best, best times and places to study, balancing study with other responsibilities and commitments)?
The second complaint? “Miss!! I don’t see the point in doing these every week. I’m just repeating the same thing over and over!” This comment definitely baffled me as we cooked something different every week that required varied skills sets and equipment.
The third complaint? “Urgh, this just takes way too much work and some of these questions have NOTHING to do with Food Tech.”
At second glance, I got what they were saying. Too many questions, not enough variety and the last few questions would be considered to fall into the realm of pastoral care rather than subject specific.
So… what made it a semi-success then?
- I gave the chance for students to improve every week. They received feedback after each and every single post and had the chance to improve their score the next week. This turned it into a personal competition for some students.
- I was able to learn what the students learned and how they learned. A lot of it was incidental and it was refreshing to see students really think about what they experienced that week.
- And, possibly the most valuable aspect of the task was that I was able to use the information they gave me to improve my teaching.
Now what I want to do is find a way of getting students (and myself!) to reflect more effectively. How do I do that?
To the teachers: What’s worked for you? How have you made it more engaging?
To the students: What is it that makes you want to reflect? Better yet, what do you dislike the most about being made to reflect?
To everyone else: Are you an active reflector? What inspires you?
Samples of student responses: Student Reflection Journal – Exemplars.