Using self-reflection as a powerful tool for learning ,will allow students to discover what works best for them.
Recently, I have been talking to academics and going through material about education, and this topic appeared many times during our chats: “How do we learn?”. If we are going to talk about teaching, we need to talk about learning as well. Don’t you think?
Academics are talking about this topic every day. How do we learn, how can students improve their way of learning, and how can teachers introduce topics in different ways to ensure that students will get the most out of their classes? Because, at the end of the day, teachers' effective teaching method is measured by how well students perform.
So here are my thoughts about it and some of the questions that popped in my head while talking about “How do we learn?”.
“Learning is a process where knowledge is presented to us, then shaped through understanding, discussion and reflection.” - Paulo Freire
As time passes and the world changes, we, as humans, have changed the way we process information. That may be obvious. Technology has a significant saying on this and has made us change the way we gather information and the way our brains handle this information. Is the younger generation learning faster than we did 30 or 60 years ago? Or are they just learning differently? Does the learning environment determine how we can learn more effectively? Can we teach someone how to learn, or is this down to us to find what works best? How can we, as teachers, help students understand what they need to learn?
Some of us might have heard our children say, they need to study for an exam, and then listened and seen how they memorise concepts and formulas. They think they are learning and “studying” in the best way. Are they? Is the learning process these days about memory capacity, or is it about deep insight, reflection and active learning?
My suggestion here would be then, to try implementing Kolb’s cycle of learning: do, review, learn and apply, but also to include a period of reflection where students can think back about what has worked so far and what hasn’t. We need to allow ourselves and our students to do this whole cycle, to reflect on what worked and what didn’t and make the necessary changes so that the learning process becomes more effective.
Some of you might say, things are going too fast, and we, teachers, need to cover so many topics that we cannot allow our students to go through the whole process of learning how to learn every time. That could be the case. Although, there are ways to guide students to do their reflection exercise on their own time, and ways to do it during the lessons.
Here are 4 Ways of Promoting Self-reflection for Learning in the Classroom
In a learning journal, students can write freely about how the process of learning was for them using Wh- questions. For example, What am I learning? Which resources did I use? How helpful or not the resources were for the specific goal stated? Why were these resources helpful or not? Where can I find more and different resources? Who can I ask for guidance? When will I revise this goal again? Why was this an effective/natural/clear learning process for me? I think this way, the learning process in itself can be very transformational. But be aware that this might not apply to everyone, as not everyone will find the writing exercise helpful. Remember, learning journals can be beneficial for students as well as for teachers.
We need to see social media and the internet as an ally for learning as well. Why not giving students the chance to blog, as it can be an excellent way to engage students in writing. They can use links, images, videos, and so much more. Always provide students with a safe space to blog and make sure you read it. (Check out how this university uses blogging as a resource for learning Vanderbilt University’s resource page.)
Incorporate revision into assessments
When teachers incorporate descriptive feedback instead of an X or tick, students can understand what they need to do differently to achieve the grade expected, or reflect on what they need to improve when resubmitting a paper, next time. My daughter’s English teacher uses this practice, and it was suggested by her to include this way of self-reflection as she has found it very useful. I know, wow :)
Peer reflection time
This one would be one of my favourites, as it promotes interaction, discussions, suggestions and brainstorming among students. I genuinely love to see a classroom where all students are actively participating. Don’t you? They can be so collaborative with each other. Peer reflection can be done as an open class discussion, in small groups or even in pairs. Students can share how the learning process was within the group and then listen to other members to get new ideas, make suggestions, and show interest and support to one another.
When people reflect, in detail, on what and how they’ve learned, and their progress, they can make more meaningful and useful adjustments. They can discover their best way of learning for themselves instead of teachers telling them how to learn best. We need to trust our students’ judgement, provide the space and time when possible to reflect on their learning and allow them to take responsibility for how they learn.
I hope you find these examples useful, and I would love to hear how this has worked for you and what other suggestions and changes you can make, to make the learning process more fun and effective.
Until next time, Let’s keep inspiring, motivating and empowering others.
Transformational Education and Leadership
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