Designing Time to Reflect

Do you reflect about your own work?  Do your students reflect about their work as learners?  As we wrap up this school year and soon begin to think of the next, I encourage you to consider the system of reflection you will employ in your own work and in your own classroom.  A new school year is an opportunity to make changes for the better.  Make the time to reflect and the benefits will abound.

I challenge you to design a plan that allows students to collect and curate artifacts of learning as well as personal reflection on their thinking throughout their learning experiences.  Whether you ask your students to use a bound journal, a set of notecards on a ring, or a digital tool, the importance is that there is a system that supports reflection.  Make it a practice that will become a habit so that the automaticity of reflection is something you can count on and your students can count on.

Make reflection a habit.

Add value to student reflection by encouraging a collection of artifacts that include:

  • photos of work throughout the learning experiences, including solutions or final products;
  • videos of processes used to arrive at solutions or final products;
  • written annotation that includes the thinking behind the learning; and
  • spoken annotation that includes wonderings, questions, and ideas for next steps.

Looking for ideas related to a platform to house artifacts of reflection?  Free and low-cost options include Seesaw (most appropriate for elementary students), Notability, and Learning Management Systems such as Schoology.

Need ideas for digital and unplugged tools to capture learning?  The camera app on digital devices cannot be emphasized enough.  Photos and videos tell stories that descriptions sometimes cannot.  Also, FlipGrid, Clips, and the updated iWork suite support photos, videos, text entries, annotation, and sharing.   Any reflection done in an unplugged manner should be captured with photos or videos so they may be archived and possibly shared.  Though these tools make reflection efficient and archive artifacts of learning, the first step is to create a system so that everyone, including the teacher, sees it as a value-add to the class time.

Within Article III: Assessment for Learning we know: III.j The voice of students should be respected, and their feedback should be solicited regarding their learning and their response to the tasks they are assigned.   We ask, “How do students take ownership of their learning?”  I argue the students must first be aware of their learning goals before they can fully own their learning experiences.  They must recognize the purpose of the lesson.  They must see the connections between a single experience and the big picture of the unit, which, in turn, will lead to seeing the relationship within the course as a whole.


As we provide opportunities for our students to reflect on their own learning, we as teachers, must reflect on our own practices.  How might we make the student reflection important enough so that our students see the value and leverage it as evidence of learning?  In what ways might we support our students to make connections among ideas in order to attain conceptual understanding?  What barriers might we remove to support our students to seek out and learn from feedback from a greater audience?

Interested in reading more about student reflection?  Check out this guest post on the Learning Scientist website about How to Think about Thinking: Metacognition in the Classroom.

Interested in reading more about professional reflection?  Check out this NEW book in the Joy of Professional Learning series: Professional Reflection.

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Ask yourself if you will be ready to guide your new class of students to reflect daily about their learning.  I encourage you to think intentionally about the system you will use to support this valuable piece of the daily learning experience.

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