6 Ways to Promote Authentic Reflection

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  • The vitality of authentic, real reflection in our classroom.
  • 6 ways to ensure your students’ reflection is authentic.

Reflection is a vital part of the learning process. When we encourage our students to look back on their growth and reflect, we are inviting them to see clearly the progress they have made. We are helping develop their metacognition and their understanding of themselves as learners.

But not all reflection is created equal. I know that I’ve tried several reflection strategies or structures that have been wholly unsuccessful. The thing they all have in common, aside from their failure, is their lack of authenticity.

Authenticity is important in many parts of education. Whether it be finding authentic audiences for a piece of writing or creating authentic learning experiences that involve our communities, we have to help our students contextualize our content. 

The same holds true for reflection. Our students must have authentic experiences to reflect deeply and critically on their learning and on their goals. Only then will that reflection yield the results we hope for.

Our students must have authentic experiences to reflect deeply and critically on their learning and on their goals. Only then will that reflection yield the results we hope for. Click To Tweet

So how do we start? Here are 6 tips for authentic reflection.

1: Involve conversation

When a student has to verbalize their reflection, it holds more meaning. This conversation can be done with a peer or via video that they review, but the important part is that they talk about it.

Our students are social creatures (middle school teachers, you feel me), and when we capitalize on that aspect of their nature, we promote authentic opportunities for them to reflect and think more critically.

2: Write about it

Blogging is an amazing form of reflection for educators, so why can’t it be used that way for students too? It can!

When we have to process information enough to write it, it helps us take it a step further and consider it more fully. This is especially true when we have an audience to write for. Our thought process becomes deeper and more authentic as we put it into written words.

3: Involve families

Involving families in reflection can help it seem more realistic for our students. When they have conversations about their learning at home, it can help them feel supported and valued. It also requires that they clearly explain the work they have been doing because their family has not been witness to it.

4: Make it relevant

When reflection is relevant to our students, it holds more weight. If they are reflecting on a personal goal, it is more likely that they will carefully consider the steps they have taken to achieve it. This requires a more personalized approach, one that values and takes into consideration student voice.

It could also be useful to demonstrate or model for students how a particular learning goal will benefit them in the future. If they see the value in it or the purpose behind it, they are more likely to think critically about what it will take to meet it.

5: Don’t make it about grades

When we make reflection about grades, we diminish the process. Instead of thinking about the growth or progress they’ve made, students will focus only on the points they scored and the sense of achievement or failure they feel as a result. 

Their learning should not be transactional, nor should their reflection. When we push students to reflect on something outside of grades, they must think a little deeper about what they’ve actually been doing. It’s no longer about whether they ‘got an A’ and it becomes about the skills they mastered or are working on getting down.

6: Include future steps

All goal setting should involve a plan for the future. This allows our students to think authentically about where they go next. They can consider where they’ve come from, which is the cornerstone of reflection, but they can also focus on where they want to go.

This encourages students to contextualize what they’ve learned through the lens of their new goals or bigger aspirations. It gives them room to continue their growth and either extend their learning further or continue to try reaching their original goal. 

When we promote student reflection, we’ve got to make it authentic. Otherwise, it just doesn’t stick.

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About Katelynn Giordano

Katelynn Giordano is a 6th grade language arts teacher in the Chicago suburbs and the Digital Content Editor for the Teach Better Team. She loves writing, both on her blog, Curriculum Coffee, and for the Teachers on Fire magazine on Medium. She is a dynamic educator with a focus on student empowerment in the classroom.

Katelynn is active on Twitter and Instagram, and loves to collaborate with educators everywhere! In her free time, she enjoys relaxing with her husband and her cat, Chickpea, drinking coffee, and reading YA books.

Katelynn is also a member of the Teach Better Speakers Network.