As we know, student-centered classrooms shift the attention from the teachers to the students, as students are encouraged to take responsibility for their own learning. One way to help students learn to do this is by providing many opportunities for student reflection. Student reflection requires that students give serious thought or consideration to something that has been done. It helps them develop the ability to make discernments when problem-solving. It also encourages flexibility in thinking.
Student reflection generally takes place after a task has ended, but it can also be done at set points throughout the task itself. Reflection can be done alone, and it can be done with others. Both are extremely beneficial to the student. As students learn to reflect, they become more fully engaged in the process of making meaning of their work and experiences.
Here are a few ways to incorporate student reflection into a learning environment:
Create an emotionally caring environment where reflection is safe. When students feel that they will not be mocked, ridiculed, or brushed off, they are generally more willing to try new things. Student reflection is not something that every student has experience with, and it is important for them to feel that it is okay to take the risk of judging their own thinking and actions. Make the classroom a less rigid learning environment that encourages exploration and discovery.
Provide sufficient wait time after a question is asked. Oftentimes, teachers ask questions but fail to give the students sufficient time to think their way to a response. When teachers make an effort to wait just a little bit longer than usual for students to reply, they often get surprising results. The student that never seems to have a sensible answer may reveal that they are actually a deep thinker who just needs a little more time to get their thoughts together. With guidance, students can learn to give each other time to respond as well when they are working in cooperative groups. A message of respect spreads throughout the classroom. Students begin to realize that it’s not necessary to blurt out answers. It’s okay to take the time that’s needed to think things through.
Encourage reassessments of judgments. Sometimes, students will right away draw a conclusion about an occurrence. They may feel that they know exactly what went wrong, end of discussion. When students learn to reevaluate conclusions, they’re learning to look at a situation from more than one angle. They’re learning that there may be more than one conclusion that can actually be drawn—perhaps leading them to do things differently in the future. Use open-ended questions to help stimulate reflective thinking in this area.
Conduct frequent reviews of learning situations. One of the best ways to do this is to encourage students to reflect on what they already know about a topic, what they want to find out about it, and, eventually, what they have just learned about the topic. Many teachers use KWL charts to help students reflect on what they’re learning about a new topic.
Allow time for journaling. Journaling can be a place for reflection where students are able to be completely open with themselves. They don’t have to worry about how they may be perceived by others, as journals are meant to be a private space. Ask them to reflect on occurrences where there may be opposing views. Model how to acknowledge opposing views as well as weaknesses in one’s own viewpoint. This helps students discover how to critique their own thinking and then build upon strengths.
Student reflection is a wonderful way to help students figure out how to think more clearly during situations that require complex problem-solving, as it links current learning with past learning. During reflection, students are able to take a step back to ponder how they actually approach problems. What are their go-to strategies? They can give thought to which problem-solving strategies are best suited for reaching their goals.
When students learn to reflect on their own process of thinking, good things are sure to follow. How will you include opportunities for student reflection in your next set of classroom resources and materials?