Tag Archives: reflection

This is What You’re Missing…

I hate to break it to you but class isn’t over when it’s over. At least it shouldn’t be.

If you’re like many students, the typical course cycle is something like this:

Class Cycle

But this process is flawed.

It’s missing the critical step known as reflection.

Reflection can be defined as both:

  • a thought, idea, or opinion formed or a remark made as a result of meditation, and
  • the consideration of some subject matter, idea, or purpose.

I’m not necessarily suggesting that you take up the practice of meditation (although there are many benefits to that as well) but I am advocating for you to incorporate some intentional thinking after class is dismissed.

The bottom line is that nobody understands everything the first time. I have encountered my share of frustrated students because they just didn’t “get it” immediately after class. That’s not usually the point. If a student was able to completely understand all elements of the content, theory or practice after pre-preparation (assuming that even happened) and one class discussion, I would gladly welcome her up to the front of the room to run the class for the rest of the semester.

I challenge you to schedule some time after your next class to reflect on what just happened. Grab a tea, an apple, a chocolate bar or whatever floats your boat and ask yourself these questions:

  1. What were the key takeaways of that class?
  2. What do I still not understand after class?  And more importantly, what am I going to do about it?
  3. How does what was discussed or presented in class connect to what I am learning in this course or other courses?
  4. What over and above the course content did I learn today?

I guarantee you will get so much more out of your course experience if you build in an opportunity to reflect regularly.  I’d love to hear how this practice is working for you.

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My Daughter Got a C

My daughter Abbey is a good student. Her teachers tell me that she gets her work done on time, is a respected role model in the classroom and demonstrates great work habits. By the way, Abbey is in Grade 3.

Last term she came home with a math test in her blue assessment folder for me to review and sign off on (like it’s some kind of legal contract or something). I was shocked to discover that Abbey got a C on this particular math assessment. She knew when the test was scheduled and had spent time reviewing the content the two evenings beforehand without issue. Abbey usually gets A’s in math and has never scored lower than a B on any assessment or report card so I was a little taken aback with this result.

I could feel Abbey’s eyes on me as I opened the blue folder. She’s mature enough to understand the difference between an A and a C grade and she knows her dad and I expect good results. Our eyes only met for a moment before hers dropped.

“What happened?”, I asked.

“I don’t know”, she answered.

Sad

Abbey’s experience is no different than the experience of scores other students since the beginning of time. Abbey is not the first, and will not be the last, to be disappointed in a test result.

As a parent (and a teacher), I knew that this uncomfortable situation provided the basis for a great learning moment. I wanted my daughter to know that disappointments, mistakes, oversights and boo boos happen all the time but it’s ok under one condition:

YOU LEARN SOMETHING.

The great part about this experience is not only did my daughter takeaway some great lessons, I was reminded of what students go through when they receive a less than desirable grade.

Abbey learned:

  1.  It’s ok to feel crummy when you don’t perform to your potential. Go ahead and have your pity party, feel bad for a bit and then let it go (she loved me belting out the hit Frozen tune).
  2. It’s just one test in a series of tests that you will take over the rest of your life. Yes, it matters, but there will be loads opportunities to showcase your brilliance.
  3. Take time to figure out what happened. Did you perform poorly because you didn’t have the time or take the time to learn the content? Maybe it was because you didn’t manage your time wisely during the actual test. In Abbey’s case, she didn’t read the questions carefully or ask the teacher for clarification when needed.

 I learned:

  1. My students really do feel crummy when they get a bad grade. It hurts even worse when they know they could have done better.
  2. It takes time to rebound. I shouldn’t expect my students to spring into my next class all bright and eager when they’re just not there yet.
  3. It might take someone, ahemmmm, me, to help my students put it all in perspective and remind them that the point of this educational experience is to learn content, process, resilience, self-awareness, study skills, self-reflection, listening, writing, communication, and on and on.

Life, and school, would be pretty boring if we had all the answers all the time.  According to Richard Branson “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” Go on now and pick up some band aids.

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It’s Good to be Back

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, so today, which happens to be any old day, I have made a commitment to blog regularly and to enter a 10K race (why not?).

Blog topics have been coming to me in droves since I decided to spend more time doing, wait for it…

Staring

Nothing!

And by nothing I mean reading for pleasure, going for walks, watching my kids play, drinking tea while staring out the window, burying my smart phone deep into my purse where I won’t see it or hear it, and you know what? I’m feeling mentally refreshed.

And you can too!

Ok, I have to admit, the Christmas holidays helped make this practice a reality. It was a big advantage that my institution essentially shut down for a week and a half so no one was doing much work (unless you are the professor like me who failed to complete all grading).

Even though both students and faculty alike are back at it, I am taking a pledge to continue to incorporate my daily practice of “nothing” I introduced over the holidays for all of the many benefits it provides.

Research by Hallnäs and Redström has suggested that introducing slow technology, which involves incorporating pause and reflection as alternatives to efficiency, rationality, and productivity, may actually help individuals restore a level of calm so many of us desire.

A more recent study out of the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, by researchers Oppezzo and Schwartz found that walking boosts creativity (thanks Daphne Gray-Grant). Hey, I’m all for multitasking when it can improve my ingenuity and waistline at the same time!

The takeaway here is that we are not necessarily more productive when we are “busy”. Taking time for yourself can actually improve your efficiency, creativity and satisfaction levels so why not try it. You might really like it.

 

Hallnäs, L. and Redström, J. Slow technology: Designing for reflection. Personal & Ubiquitous Computing 5, 3 (2001), 201-212.

Oppezzo, Marily; Schwartz, Daniel L. Give your ideas some legs: The positive effect of walking on creative thinking. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, Vol 40(4), Jul 2014, 1142-1152.

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrew_clarke/9011391104/”>voithite</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

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Reflection -> Awareness -> Improvement

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Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

Wouldn’t you agree?

So why is it that so many students fail to make changes to their routines and habits when they are disappointed, stressed or unimpressed when they consider their academic performance over the past semester?

You know I have an answer.  It’s because they fail to reflect.

What is reflecting anyway? 

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines reflection as both (1) a thought, idea, or opinion formed or a remark made as a result of meditation and (2) consideration of some subject matter, idea, or purpose.

I like to think of reflection as a personal self-assessment.  For me, it involves taking time out of my busy schedule to purposefully think about a particular event, experience, encounter or exchange.  I honestly schedule in the time because that’s how I roll.  I think about what happened, how I felt, how others reacted and if I would change my approach or actions in a future situation.  And this my friends is the purpose of reflection.

So, why bother reflecting?

Reflection brings about awareness which can bring about positive change which is what continuous improvement is all about.  We all should be taking more time to reflect in our daily lives.  In fact if we did, I bet the world would be a better place.

Alright.  How do I get started?

Reflection isn’t something you should do only “at the end” of a project; however, that seems to be the most obvious time to pause and evaluate the event, activity or work performed.  At a minimum, students should be taking the time to reflect after receiving feedback (either in the form of a grade or actual written feedback) on each test, exam, paper, report or assignment.  I recognize that some evaluators rarely take the time to provide written comments so if they do, consider it a bonus.  Another even better time to reflect is before the feedback (i.e. grade) is provided.  This timing will remove any bias that results from an unexpected good or poor evaluation of the work.  Reflecting at the end of a semester or academic year is also an excellent time to pause and consider the timeframe as a whole.

If you’re not sure what you should be thinking about, here are some questions to get you started:

  • How did this experience differ from your expectations?
  • How did this experience make you feel?
  • What was the best and worst thing that happened during this experience?
  • What was your biggest challenge?  What enabled you to overcome this challenge or what prevented you from overcoming this challenge?
  • Was there anything which made you uncomfortable or discouraged during this experience?
  • What helped or hindered you through this process?
  • How did this experience challenge your assumptions and stereotypes?
  • What you would change if you had the opportunity to repeat this activity?
  • What skills did you develop or improve as a result of this experience?
  • How will this experience benefit you in the future?
  • What have you learned about yourself?

I highly recommend keeping a “reflection journal” which can take the form of a dedicated notebook or a simple Word document.  The act of jotting down notes will help you internalize your takeaways and apply what you have learned to the next experience.

Now you know what to do and how to do it.  Do yourself a favour and schedule in some time to reflect as this academic year comes to a close.  If you seriously apply the learnings from this effort to new experiences (i.e. new coursework) you should see results.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/gemmabou/7226316180/”>Gemma Bou</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>

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