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Using Reflection in the Classroom

Last Friday’s Friday Forum focused on using reflection and metacognition in the classroom. We talked about using student reflection for two purposes: 1) instructor’s information–we can use student reflection to assess learning, pacing, and/or achievement of outcomes, and 2) students’ information–students can use reflection to consider their own processes or activities, assess their own understanding, or surface misunderstandings/assumptions.

I use reflection for both purposes in my writing classes. For my information, I often ask students to assess their understanding of a concept with a thumbs-up, thumbs-sideways, or thumbs-down sign. That lets me know whether I can move on from a concept or if students need more time and practice with something. These are very quick informal reflections. I also ask students to do more formal, thoughtful reflections. Often when they read an article, especially at the beginning of the semester, I have them reflect in writing on their reading process–what strategies they used to understand the material, what they were thinking as they read, and how hard they felt the reading to be. This metacognitive activity forces them to really pay attention to what they are doing; they have to think about and analyze what their brains are doing as they read.

I also have students reflect on each essay they write. When they turned in their second essay from ENG 111 last week, for example, I had them write about how their writing process differed from that of the previous essay, what advice they got from peer review that they chose to listen to, what was easy and what was hard about writing this essay, and finally I ask them to predict what they think they will get on the essay and why. After I return their graded essays tomorrow, they will have to reflect again. This time, they will look at all my comments and reflect on how the grade they earned compares to what they predicted as well as what they learned from this essay that they want to implement for the next essay.

I love encouraging students to be more thoughtful about what they do. Reflection increases deep thinking and ownership for students, and in my experience, it helps them to be more successful. Here is a link to the slide show from the Friday Forum. You will find links to resources at the end as well as some reflective assignments that a few instructors at NMC give.

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