Deepen student learning by teaching them to reflect

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Reflection helps students to organize, communicate their thoughts, and understand if they understand a topic.

Photo: Bigstock

According to a study conducted by Harvard University, giving students time to reflect on their knowledge really matters and is an essential practice for their formation. By allowing them to reflect, instead of jumping from lesson to lesson, students can recognize their strengths and weaknesses.

Jamie Back, a math teacher at Cincinnati Country Day School, says she asks students to reflect at the beginning of the year to know what they are looking forward about the class, their fears, how they overcome mistakes in math and how they feel when solving a math problem.

Moreover, she makes students reflect during a lesson because by “asking students to reflect on one class or one idea forces them to make time to determine if they understand before it is too late to seek help.” Additionally, it helps them organize and communicate their thoughts and realize if they truly understand a topic.

The teacher also recommends different tools to help students reflect on their knowledge:

  • GrokSpot: a collaborative discussion tool that blends reflection with mindset messages. It allows teachers and students to communicate and reflect their thoughts through emojis. 

  • Microsoft OneNote: it can be used as a digital notebook to keep notes and reflections. It also has Class Notebook, a place where teachers can respond to questions by inserting a text, picture, video, or writing/drawing using a Smartpen. 

  • Online forms: either Microsoft or Google offers forms that teacher can create that collected in a spreadsheet so they can be easily analyzed.

  • FlipGrid: a tool that allows video discussions using stickers and emojis.

Besides these tools, there are many tips teachers can follow to make students reflect on what they are learning:

  • Blogging: it’s a simple way to make students communicate their thoughts and get them to write.

  • Make videos: make students use their creativity by giving a different perspective on a topic. It can be a great way to look back at what they learn, giving them an insight into their progress.

  • Quote highlights: ask students to find a quote, song, brand or piece of art that represents a concept from the class so they can relate what they see in the lesson with things in “real life.” It also allows them to show more about their passion and interest.

  • Take breaks: teachers can’t force students to reflect; they can only make it a habit, so it comes naturally. By giving “reflection breaks” during lessons, encourages students to express their thoughts about what they’ve learned so far. After a while, they’ll learn to reflect on their own.

Students reflections can help teachers modify and plan future lessons, see what strategies are helping and which aren’t, detect when students need extra attention, and what connections they make between the teaching and what they see outside of the classroom.