Find out what it means to….me & my students.
Let’s be honest. We all know reflection matters, and well, probably, got a bit lazy at times when it comes to creating engaging reflection activities. “I know how to do reflection papers” is what most of us probably thought. If we continue being honest for a bit longer we probably can also agree that reflection papers don’t always hold up to their name and not necessarily always, well, reflect the learner’s journey but more their buzzword bingo skills.
So what to do to make reflections more honest, direct, and raw? Well first of all you have to ask yourself, do you want reflections to be like that ’cause the truth (raw, direct, reflections) can hurt.
I simply assume we all are our own Lt. Kaffees and hence want to handle the truth. This means we have to get our students to a point where they feel comfortable telling us their respective truths (more on what that is in a second).
This time around I actually tried my idea in two different classes simply to see the difference between first year and second year students and the outcome was quite different.
The Experiment: I gave a learning journey map (artifact!) to the students so that they would have some kind of structure and guideline to look at and then asked them to think about their individual learning journeys, discuss them in their respective teams (that they’ve been working in the whole semester) and then also discuss those with me.
There were several reasons for this approach. I wanted them to feel comfortable sharing their truth so I thought about having them reflect anonymously. However this would have meant I would not have been able to discuss things directly with them. Hence I decided to emphasize that the reflection is not a graded assignment and simply is there to a) see how they are doing and b) give me feedback to see where we could make adjustments in the class structure. I then chose the group discussion as, from experience, students in Thailand aren’t always comfortable in 1:1 sessions and hence this was designed to take the pressure of everyone and make it a bit less formal.
As mentioned above I chose this approach for two different classes to see if there would be a different outcome. There was.
Second year students, as you would have suspected, seemed more mature in their reflection and, on average, talked more about their own decisions / actions while first year students focused more on their group interactions. One thing that was common across all the classes though was that approximately 50% of correspondents added complaints to their reflection such as the midterm exams being to hard, too many assignments, theories discussed in class were too hard, and alike rather than looking at themselves.
This might just be a junior student issue though as we all mature as we get older and gather more experience and hence it might be interesting to have such a reflection activity with older students as well.
Overall my take away here is that reflections are important and help those who really reflect while it seems to be our duty to communicate the importance of reflections even more so that we can move from complaining towards growing.