richardjamesrogers.com is the official blog of Richard James Rogers: high school Science teacher and award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management. This blog post is illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.
Self-reflection can be a great way to maximize the progress and attainment of our students, but how exactly do we encourage this introspection? Are there some key tools that teachers can use to facilitate this process? Today, I’ve invited Martyn Kenneth (an international educator of 15+ years, educational consultant, tutor/coach, an author of children’s books and textbooks and the creator and host of ‘The Lights Out‘ Podcast) to share his insights and tips for educators.
At the end of this blog post you will find a free pdf version of Martyn’s Self-Reflection journal for students. No sign-up required: just click and download.
We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.John Dewey
Anyone who works in an IB school will have heard the word ‘reflection’ a thousand times. But in a world where learners’ schedules are being filled to bursting point with more ‘knowledge’ to be tested, are we sacrificing time that could be spent on reflecting on past experiences for time spent absorbing knowledge for the future?
We have to look back to move forward. By this I mean we, as teachers and learners, have to purposefully set a time when we look back on our journey up to the present in order to set an intention for future goals and actions. Without this intention we cannot set a direction and without a direction there cannot be a destination. Or at least there cannot be a destination that is reached with precision, purpose and efficiency. It is this precision, purpose and efficiency that gets you further faster – milestone after milestone, chapter after chapter or page after page. And isn’t this what we all want for our students – for them to grow and develop to their full potential?
It wasn’t until I went from EAL teacher to IB PYP teacher that this word ‘reflection’ really hit home. I used to be a great believer in task-based learning (TBL) and would happily conclude that learning was happening in the classroom as a result of a run of tasks being completed in sequential order. I never used to schedule or plan-in time for reflecting on the tasks that have been completed.
The school where I work now utilizes the inquiry-based method with the PYP framework. If you look at any inquiry-based approach you will find that reflection usually sits at the center of the inquiry cycle (just Google ‘inquiry cycle‘). Not to say that task based learning lessons are ineffective: on the contrary they can be highly effective if they are consciously and intentionally used as a part of the inquiry cycle. But as a learning experience they are just one part of the puzzle. Reflection plays an equal if not more important role than the tasks themselves.
Reflection informs teaching and planning, too as it is only when we reflect that we can truly plan for success in the student.
An activity that I like to do with secondary students is related to having them reflect on what has happened through the week. It’s based on 6 initials.
It is a reflection based activity that asks students to write for a maximum of ten minutes about their week.
M – Memorable Moment
E – Emotions
N – News
D – Driving motivation
T – Time travel
G – Goals
I provide sentence stems to begin with such as:
M – The most memorable moment of my week was __________________________. This was memorable for me because _____________________.
E – A time this week when I felt very __________ (emotion)___________ was when _______________. This was caused by ______________
N – In the news this week I saw/read about__________. I was interested in this story because _____________
D – This week I have been motivated by __________. This has motivated me because _________________
T – If I travelled back to last class the thing I would change/do differently would be __________. Making this change would have made my week different by______________
G – My goal for the following week is ________________ To achieve this goal I will _____________.
[Optional – (I achieved/didn’t achieve my goal last week because_______)]
I have found that having learners do this exercise is really beneficial for everyone. It allows the teacher to find out more about his or her students, it can be a platform for deeper discussions and conversations, it is a quiet time at start of class to get learners focusing and ready and it can also be a time for setting and achieving small goals.
I had actually used another set of initials for a couple of years before changing to the MENDTG in the new year.
My previous reflection activity was:
B – The Best thing of the week for me was…
W – The Worst thing of the week for me was…
L – Something I learned this week was…
F – Something I failed at was…
G – This week I am grateful for…
G – My goal for the week ahead is...
As educators we now have to reflect on our practice and ask ourselves serious questions like: Am I teaching the best I can? Am I providing the best environment for learning to happen? And have I planned well enough with appropriate assessments that can be evidence to inform teaching and learning going forward?
I think our practice can change significantly if we think about the quote by Dewey and focus more attention on the recall of memory about a learning experience and less on the focus of information to be recalled at a later date.
Download Martyn’s free self-reflection journal for students as a pdf here (no sign-up required, just click and download):
Thoughts and reflections from Richard James Rogers:
Thank you, Martyn, for this detailed and useful article. I love both acronyms and the Reflective Journal that you’ve kindly shared with us all is a great tool. I will be sharing this with my colleagues at school and using it in my role as a form-tutor – I think it’s a great weekly exercise that can have a profound and positive effect on many students’ lives.