The concept of reflective practice is an essential part of the learning process. Taking the time to consider what you know at a moment in time lets you put things into perspective and see the gaps in knowledge, the places for improvement, and what steps you could take to perfect your acquisition level.
Conscious reflection is a practice used in many domains where professionals analyze their work, abilities, and overall results. Teachers use reflective practice on themselves to help improve their skills and enhance their understanding of how they impact learners.
Reflection as a process is extremely useful for learners. Going through stages of conscious reflection allows for deeper learning, as learners ponder upon their performance and learn from experiences. John Dewey, the American philosopher, said that
People learn by reflecting on experiences, not by simply experiencing things.
James Zull, the late professor of biology and biochemistry, takes reflection a step forward to the idea of experience with emotion: emotion helps people make meaning of what they go through, and conscious reflection plays a fundamental role in transforming experience plus emotion into learning.
Students need reflective practice as a norm in their learning process, and teachers have to guide them through the stages of self-discovery for deep learning and retention. Peter Pappas, a specialist in education with over 50 years of experience in the field, has created a taxonomy of reflection with questions for different stages of the learning experience:
- Creating - What should I do next?
- Evaluating - How well did I do?
- Analyzing - Do I see any patterns in what I did?
- Applying - where could I use this again?
- Understanding - What was important about it?
- Remembering - What did I do?
Building on these questions, teachers can help students reflect upon their learning and understand their strengths and weaknesses. When they self-assess what they know, they can improve their understanding.
Digital tools for reflection to use in class
Since school has been anchored more and more into the online environment, reflection can also be done with the assistance of digital tools.
GrokSpot is a complex tool that can be used to check students' understanding and prompt rich discussions, assign groups, foster peer comments and reactions. The platform includes various group management and collaborative discussions features. With a paid upgrade, teachers can also benefit from the report generated for individual students and groups.
Flipgrid can be used as a video diary where students record their thoughts on a subject and try to understand what they know, think, or need going further. If these videos are made public for the class, they could foster meaningful conversations based on growth mindset comments. This way, learners analyze themselves and learn by adding peers' input.
Mentimeter is great for setting expectations at the beginning of a class and then asking for reflection to see if those expectations were met at the end of the class. This is helpful for learners to direct their attention towards specific topics and for teachers to assess the success of their lessons and what changes or improvements they should make.
Padlet is a virtual wall where students can post their work and reflect on it. Teachers can intervene in the self-assessment process and guide learners through deeper reflection moments. Also, as a collaborative learning experience, peers can react and comment on each other's reflections and get a deeper insight into others' thought processes.
Answer Garden is a tool for quick reflection which uses words or expressions to create word walls for specific topics or purposes. It can be used at the beginning or end of the class to help students reflect on how they feel. For the lesson itself, Answer garden can be used as a collective reflective practice tool on the information received in class that provides a broader perspective on a given topic.
Microsoft or Google tools
OneNote, Google Docs, Microsoft Forms, or Google Forms foster collaborative reflection. In joint documents, students can create learning diaries to include their thought process, reflect on it, and receive input from the teacher or peers.
Having teachers make notes on students' reflective processes can help learners understand what they know and what they don't. Having peers provide feedback to students' reflections helps them feel understood, and make meaningful comments.
Reflecting can take the form of journaling, blogging, or podcasting, too. Students record their learning experience in written or audio format, which contributes to a clear understanding of their performance, expectations, and needs. Blogger is a handy tool for journaling and blogging, making students more responsible for what they write about and inevitably for their development process. For podcasting, students can use Anchor or Audacity. Which then can be integrated on streaming platforms or a blog.
By defining and communicating their thoughts to themselves or others, students realize if they fully understand a topic and pinpoint what needs improvement. Having someone, a teacher or peer, react to their reflections adds clarity and reassurance to the learning process. Students name what works and doesn't work for them and identify similar learning processes in peers, which gives them a feeling they are not the only ones struggling or needing more time or more information.
Digital reflection tools open the door to students' inner learning process, benefiting both teachers and students into discovering what was and what needs to be done to reach the desired outcomes.