Pausing to Reflect: Self-Reflection on Teaching Self-Reflection

Image by David Whelan via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Image by David Whelan via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Self-reflection is an important part of growth and learning. I’m trying to ask my students to do more of it this year. I’m asking my M2 (grade 6) students to create digital portfolios (more on them soon..check out Matt Renwick’s book though!) where they track their progress toward goals they’ve set for themselves, as well as the goals that I’ve created for them for the learning plans or IEPs. Within the SRSD writing framework I’m asking students to evaluate their own work, reflect on their progress, and set new goals for themselves. Many of them enjoy these activities, but I have had several students who were resistant. The most interesting response that I got was that it was “tacky” to do self-reflections. I still haven’t figured out what she actually meant. But given that resistance I thought I should practice what I preach and figure out what went wrong.

Clearly something was making this student uncomfortable, even if she was having difficulty articulating it. Did she mean that the task–write a note to your parents that I would share with them at parent-teacher conferences telling them how you thing you’re doing meeting your goals–felt inauthentic and maybe a little weird? I suppose I can’t actually argue with her there. It might not have been able to come up with something a little more authentic. Is “tacky” for this kid like Holden Caufield’s “phony”? Had she just been asked to do the same exercise in all of her other classes and it was just enough? I realized that in addition to all of those possibilities, I hadn’t ever actually made reflection something real–something that I engage in both at work and in my day-to-day life. I didn’t let her know about all the ways reflection happens in the real life of an adult. And, yes, none of them involve a letter to my mom…

  • When I’m teaching I ask myself whether lessons went well and why or why not, including how I interacted with students, and I do some self-reflection in writing on this blog;
  • When I improvise a recipe I reflect on cooking techniques and ingredient choices and I make notes for what I’ll do if I try it again;
  • When I bake bread I take a bite of the finished  loaf and reflect on my technique and the choices I made about rising time and liquid-to-flour ratios;
  • When I finish I run I ask myself if I’m tired and whether I could have pushed myself to run faster or farther;
  • When I finish knitting a sweater I look at how it fits and make notes about how I might change things the next time I knit a sweater so that it will fit even better.

As much as I am philosophically all for letting kids know why what I’m asking them to do is important to their lives–not just their lives as students, but their lives as human beings–sometimes I don’t do a great job of remembering to tell them that these are things that I’m not just telling them that people do, but that I do. And because I’ve learned that this helps me to be successful, I think it’s important to teach my students. Maybe I need to look into ways to making my self-reflection practices more transparent to my students, the same way I talk about what I’m reading or ways that I used math that day.

How do you make skills that seem like “school” things, but are a actually a part of your everyday life as an adult, feel relevant to your students? How do you make self-reflection activities authentic?

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  1. Instructional Coach Training: #BTCFS - Samantha Mosher - December 15, 2014

    […] you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time you know I’m a fan of self-reflection. For me, for my students, for educators in general. And I think on some level I understood the idea […]

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