Pictured above is a group of my friends reflecting on a day that included meditation, vegan meals, mandalas, and calligraphy. Each of us had a chance to share our biggest takeaways.
And while we were all exhausted from the long day, reflecting helped make the day more than just a series of experiences; but more importantly, to serve as a provocation for changes we might make in our life because of them.
John Dewey once famously said; “Experience without reflection is just an experience, reflection is what transforms experience, into learning.”
How do you reflect with your learners?
Beyond the obvious learning that takes place when we reflect, by making reflection a regular part of our classrooms, we will grow more self-directed, socially and emotionally aware citizens.
But reflection involves more than throwing a few questions together on a Google Form.
Good reflection involves asking the right questions.
Here are 10 of my favorite:
- What surprised you? I love this question. Surprise invites mystery and intrigue. It also helps your students look for deeper meaning below the surface of a learning experience.
- What’s changed for you? Whether dissecting a provocative piece of literature, or reflecting on a collaborative activity or project, this question helps students see how they have grown and changed in the process of learning.
- What was your biggest takeaway? Ask this question and you will discover how to better personalize experiences for learners. You will know which part of the learning experience to keep, and what to reconsider for next time.
- What challenges did you encounter, and how did you overcome them? For me, the second part of this question is most powerful. It’s easy for us to get stuck on challenges, god knows we encounter several daily, but by focusing on our creative solutions, we (and our students) develop new mindsets to deal with future challenges. This question empowers our students to develop resilience.
- What was a highlight for you? This is a much more colorful way of asking, what did you like most about the last learning experience? Instead of bland one word answers, you will have dynamic descriptions that will help you surface what your students really value.
- If we asked your project team to use 2-3 words to describe you as a teammate, what would they be? This is 100 times better than asking a student, “How well did you work with your team?” It helps them to identify exactly how they contribute, while also allowing you to ask follow up questions to probe deeper.
- Which emoticon best describes…? This question involves some prep work. Print out 5-10 emoticons and place them around the room. Ask provocative questions about different parts of the last learning experience. ‘Which emoticon best describes how you feel about our exhibition?’ ‘Which emoticon best represents how you feel about your final product?’ Above all, this will help you and your students to see that learning experiences are full of varying emotions, and ALL are ok. They will also help students better recognize their emotions and how it affects their learning.
- I used to think, but now I know… This is a great prompt to help learners identify specifically ways their beliefs, values, or feelings towards learning have changed as a result of a learning experience. It also helps develop flexible mindsets and demonstrate that we are ALL evolving as learners and people.
- What was most useful for you? I borrowed this question from the ‘Coaching Habit’ by MIchael Stanier. This question can be used following a learning experience, feedback session, lesson, project, etc. More importantly than what your students learn, this question will surface HOW they like to learn. It will help them identify how to best use their time, space, and strengths as self-directed learners in future experiences.
- If you could talk to yourself before this project started, what advice would you give him/ her? I adore this question. For your high-achieving students, it will help them be a bit gentler on themselves, and for your lower achieving students, it will help them identify ways to be more self-sufficient in the future. It also avoids the nasty conversation that ensues when you try to give a defensive student advice yourself.
What questions do you use?
I would love to hear them and add them to the list.
Finally, if you are wanting to make reflection more than just a classroom routine, check out this example of a ‘digital portfolio.’ Digital Portfolios are a great way to track student growth and reflection over time.