Every student in every class I teach — from first year writers to upper level English majors to professionals taking a graduate class — is required to reflect and write about our journey that semester. If you are not doing this then I don’t even know what you are doing as an educator. Every semester when I read these reflections I learn so much about my students and my teaching. Often times these reflections bring tears to my eyes for the lessons they have learned and because I am going to miss those students. Yes, there are moments of frustration for the student who never opened their heart or mind and so missed a valuable learning opportunity, but overall it is a joy and a celebration for both my students and myself.
I ask students three questions. The first is specific to the theme or topic of the class (such as American Literacy, Games, or Professional Writing). The second is the same for everyone and simply asks the writer to consider their journey as a writer this semester. The third is also the same for everyone and is a two-part question where students are asked to offer advice to future classes and to me for future iterations of the class. I give them a bit more prompting but that is the essence of the exercise and, of course, my students are accustomed to the practice of reflection as I ask them to reflect often throughout the semester and give me feedback at the end of every unit so other instructors may need to provide more scaffolding.
One of the primary goals of my class is to help my students think about their writing in different ways (or perhaps for the first time). I want them to think like a writer. I also want them to spend some time thinking about the lessons and growth for that specific unit (or class) before they move on to the next. I suspect that the lack of reflection may be one of the contributing factors to the lack of transfer for many student writers. However, reflection is simply an important part of learning no matter your content area or focus. Spending time thinking and writing about experiences and lessons can help students better understand the impact of this learning.
Do you think reflection is an important part of learning? How and how often do you encourage your students to reflect as part of their education journey?