3 Ways to Turn Students into Reflective Learners

Touching on controversial topics is certainly tough. Some teachers may even dread touchy subjects. Yet, students stand to gain from discussing these topics–tough discussions help students think critically, pick apart and strengthen their logic, separate emotions from facts, and improve their own opinions. It can be tricky to approach these subjects, but highly rewarding to guide a successful discussion. Here are a few tips to make your students more reflective.

1.Make your safe space safer — anonymize

It’s common to designate your classroom a safe, judgement-free zone before a difficult discussion, but is it effective to leave it at that? Do you find some students still don’t speak up despite traditional efforts to quell judgement? If not, it may be because there’s judgement that you alone can’t prevent. To include your more soft-spoken or less-comfortable students, try adding an anonymous element to class. This can include:

  • Collecting written comments to a prompt before discussion
  • Turning on anonymous digital feedback with nClass
  • Creating an anonymous poll so student see they are not alone in their views
  • Having students contribute their thoughts to a word cloud

2. Create comfort around critique

Even the most bold students may have trouble constructively critiquing another student’s argument if it surrounds a controversial topic. Many students may feel that their critiques may be seen as too close minded, or conversely, too radical if they critique a commonly-held belief. Yet, this kind of discussion helps those from all over the spectrum of belief hone in on commonly-heard logical fallacies and improve their arguments.

Instead, have students write down or type out thoughts on a subject and display these comments anonymously as the prompt.As a result, students who state their critques don’t feel they are attacking one specific person, but an idea divorced from its creator. When coming across an unpopular comment, have students slow down and break apart what makes the comment seem unpopular to them. To aid in the critique process, students should also be able to respond anonymously.

3. Allow students to express opinions through an exit ticket

You might see a few students fidget, get frustrated, or make faces during class, yet they don’t speak up. These last hold-outs may have something important to say. Let them work out their best answer during class and express it just before they leave. Tell students that they must write down one thought that they didn’t express during class and give them 10 minutes. You may get a few passionate, well thought out paragraphs that you can use as future prompts. This gives the most shy students a chance to prove they were engaged in class, while giving you a store of opinions that students in future classes can use as fodder.

How do you promote reflective learning? Let us know below