By Vicki Courtenay, Teaching and Learning Librarian`
As educators, we often ask students to undertake a process of reflection following the completion of an assessment / assignment / presentation. Occasionally, students offer up insights about their process and strategies and muse on ways to improve them. More often than not, however, what a teacher reads as a reflection is more of a recount of what the student did at each stage of the process. But still we persist! Why? It’s because we know the value of reflective practice.
Good teaching practice is steeped in traditions of reflection. When we are learning to be teachers we follow a mandatory, documented process of planning, delivering and then reflecting on each and every lesson. The planning for subsequent lessons is informed by the reflections from the previous lesson, which enables us to focus on those aspects of the previous lesson that we identified as areas for improvement. In this way we follow a cycle of continuous improvement in our pedagogical strategies.
Katie Charner-Laird, the principal at Lincoln-Eliot School, Massachusetts, is the coauthor of the book Cultivating Student Reflection, which describes reflection as “the mind’s strongest glue for making the connections essential to understanding, regardless of the subject matter” (Charner-Laird in Boss, 2009). So, when students participate in reflective practice they actually strengthen their capacity to learn. Connections can be made between what they know currently and what they need to know.
As with any skill, it takes practice to improve, and so teachers continue to prompt reflections from students on a regular basis. Through regular practice and feedback from teachers, students can become adept as reflective learners – a skill that will hold them in good stead for the rest of their lives. Indeed, for students considering tertiary education, many university assignments contain reflections as part of the assessment criteria, and some are actually only reflective exercises.
Teacher Librarians are fond of many sayings, myself included, but one of my favourites is lifelong learners. I know it’s become a bit of a catch-phrase in educational circles, but the essence of this concept remains strong, seen in the cyclic process of learning, applying, reflecting and learning again. The cycle involves identifying gaps and finding pathways to learn new skills to fill those gaps, and in this way it becomes a lifelong process.
So educators continue to provide opportunities for students to practice their reflections, knowing that encouraging and teaching them to become more skilled reflective learners will set them on a pathway to success.
Boss, S (4 March, 2009). High Tech Reflection Strategies Make Learning Stick [online article]. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/student-reflection-blogs-journals-technology