Friday, March 7, 2014

Reflection: an essential element of teaching

"Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action."
Peter F. Drucker

As educators, we spend tremendous amounts of time planning lessons for our students and working through those lessons with them. Too often, when we complete one lesson, we are quick to move on to the next one. However, in doing so, we miss a vital step in the learning process; that is one of reflection.  We can feel so rushed to get through the material we are supposed to cover that we skip over an opportunity for true, deep, and rich learning.

Upon my own reflection, I have reminded myself of the importance of taking the time to include this step with my students. Now, I intentionally include a reflective component in all of my major assignments. Sometimes I offer prompts such as: 

* I believe the strongest parts of my project were:* I believe my project would have been stronger if:
* Am I proud of what I am turning in?  Why?
* What lessons did I learn from this assignment or experience?

These reflections may or may not be graded. If students need a bit of a carrot, I may include the reflection as a percentage of the grade. Any grade is based on the depth of their thoughts, not the length, the depth. I would like them to show me that they truly took the time to learn from the experience of the lesson.  At other times, the reflection is not graded. I simply encourage the students to take a step back, slow down, and process what they have been working on.
A colleague of mine likes to say, "we schedule what we value."  If we value reflection, and I do, we need to model it and offer time for it. We learn far less if we blaze forward without paying attention to where we have been.

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