As I’ve blogged recently, I want my students to take responsibility for their own learning (see posts about Gamification and Project-Based Learning). If I teach my students to learn and write for ME then what happens to them when they leave my class? My foundational goals for my students are to help them become self-regulating and self-directed so they are never dependent on someone else to learn and grow and become. A key part of this process is reflection. Reflection is a powerful tool we often overlook when teaching in general and teaching writing in specific. It is not enough to learn something – in fact, I believe we do not really learn anything until we reflect on it. There is sound educational research and theory to support the importance of reflection in learning. Both John Dewey and Jurgen Habermas have argued that reflection serves to generate knowledge
Reflection and learning are closely related. Reflection helps us draw meaning from our experiences, but it also helps us make connections between what we have learned before and what we are learning now as well as help uncover what we need to learn next. Reflection also raises student engagement to a new level as they understand not only what they have learned but why and how it connects to previous lessons.
We are not naturally good at reflection though. We all need help and practice developing the mindful habits that good reflection demands. I not only require my students to reflect – usually on a weekly basis and then in a more summative reflection at the end of the class – but I practice what I preach through my blog. One of the purposes of my blog is to serve as a record of my experiences and practices and the lessons I learn as a reflective practitioner.
I always learn better when I take the time to reflect and my work with the National Writing Project has only increased my reflective tendencies. NWP has adapted (adopted?) Donald Schon’s “Reflective Practitioner” approach and incorporates reflection into every activity and made it a core goal of the Summer Institute. Schon argues for professionals to not only practice reflection-in-action but also to receive real-time encouragement and coaching for this reflection in order to become a “Reflective Practitioner.” NWP’s stance is that teacher reflection can be a powerful force for change both in the classroom and out.
How important is reflection to your teaching? To your learning? Do you see its potential to create powerful change?