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15 Reflection Strategies To Help Students Retain What You Just Taught Them

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15 Reflection Strategies To Help Students Retain What You Just Taught Them

by Terry Heick

Reflection is a natural part of learning.

We all think about new experiences–the camping on the car ride home, the mistakes made in a game, or the emotions felt while finishing a long-term project that’s taken months to complete.

Below I’ve shared 15 strategies for students to reflect on their learning. Modeling the use of each up front can go a long way towards making sure you get the quality of work you’d like to see throughout the year–and students learn more in the process. (This post pairs nicely with 8 Reflective Questions To Help Any Student Think About Their Learning.)

15 Reflection Strategies To Help Students Retain What You Just Taught Them

1. Pair-Share

Pair-share is a classic learning strategy where students are paired, and then verbally ‘share’ something that will help them learn new content, deepen understanding, or review what they already know. It can also be used as a quick and dirty assessment tool, as the conversations generally reflect a level of understanding the teacher can use gauge mastery and plan further instruction.

2. Sentence Stem-based responses

Sentence-stems are great because they’re like training wheels–or to mix a metaphor, tools to coach students into thinking and speaking in certain patterns. For example, you can implore students to ‘think critically,’ but if they don’t have even the basic phrasing of critical thinking (e.g., ‘This is important because…’), critical thinking will be beyond their reach.

You can also see our sentence stems for critical thinking here for other examples (you don’t have to buy the materials to see the samples).

3. Layered Text

Layered text is something I’ve meant to write about for years and never have. A layered text is a digital document that is filled with hyperlinks that communicate, well, just about anything: Questions students have, opportunities for further inquiry, odd references and allusions that reflect the schema students use to make meaning, and so on. (Rap Genius does a version of this.)

By adding ‘layers’ of meaning to a text through meaningful hyperlinking, students can reflect back on anything, from a pre-assessment journal entry that demonstrated their lack of understanding, to a kind of ‘marking up’ of what they learned when, and from where.

4. Tweet

140 characters forces students to reflect quick and to the point–great for brief bursts of reflection or hesitant writers who would struggle to write meaningful journal entries or essays. In fact, you can combine twitter with #6 for twitter exit slips.

5. 3-2-1

3-2-1 is a tried-and-true way to frame anything from a pair-share or journal entry (e.g., ask students to write 3 things they think they know, 2 things they know they don’t know, and one thing they’re certain of about a topic) pre-assessment to a post-assessment (e.g., list three ways your essay reflected mastery of skill X, two ways skill Y still needs improving, and one way you can make your argument stronger in the next five minutes) to a reflection of the post-assessment.

6. Exit Slips

Whether you call them exit slips or exit tickets, asking students to briefly leave behind some residue of learning–a thought, a definition, a question–is a powerful teaching strategy. In fact, ‘exit-slip teaching’ literally drives how I use data in the classroom. Asking students to drop some bit of reflection of the learning process on a chair by the door on the way out is a no-brainer.

Some examples?

How did you respond emotionally to something you struggled with today? What did you find most surprising about _____? How did your understanding of _______ change today? What about _____ still confuses you or makes your curious?

7. Write-Around

I love write-arounds–easy ways for students to write asynchronously and collaboratively. And the writing fragments students use don’t have to be prose–certain key vocabulary and phrases can help students reflect, but most importantly in a write-around, help students learning from one another as each student is able to read other responses before creating theirs.

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8. Sketch

Whether by sketch-notes or doodles, allowing students to draw what they think they know, how they believe their learning has changed, or some kind of metaphorical pathway towards deeper understanding is a great learning strategy for students that tend towards creative expression, and a non-threatening way for struggling students to at least write something down on paper you can use to gauge understand and plan your (their) next step.

9. Podcast

Through podcasting as a reflecting strategy, students will talk about their learning while recording. If you want to keep it ‘closed-circuit’ (not published), or actually push it to a public audience of some kind depends on the learning and students and privacy issues and so on.

This can also be simply an audio file recorded and uploaded to a private YouTube channel that’s shared with teachers or parents.

10. Brainstorming

Brainstorming can be an effective reflection strategy because it disarms issues with other approaches. For hesitant writers, journaling may not work because the writing process could overwhelm the learning. Podcasting may not work for shy students, Pair-Share may not work well if students are paired effectively, and so on.

Brainstorming is much simpler. Students could take an allotted time to write down everything they remember about a topic. Or, they could brainstorm questions they still have (things they’re confused or curious about). They could even brainstorm how what what they learned literally connects with what they already know by creating a concept map.

11. Jigsawing

Jigsawing is a grouping strategy where a task, concept, or something ‘larger’ is broken down into small puzzles pieces, and students in groups analyze the small puzzle piece, then share out to create the puzzle at large. Using this approach for reflection is seamless: Among other approaches, you can prompt students in groups to gather and share questions they have (you could group by readiness/ability, for example) in groups, and then choose one question that they weren’t able to answer among themselves with the whole class (anonymously–no one has to know who wrote the question).

12. Prezi

Think of a cross between a sketch, collage, and presentation, and you have a prezi. Engaging–though distracting and overwhelming if the reflection you need is minor–reflection tool that allows students to create an artifact of learning for their digital portfolios.

13. Vlog

This reflection strategy is close to ‘Podcasting’ and even has something in common with pair-sharing. By reflecting through vlog’ing, students simply talk about their learning to a camera.

This approach would be successful for students that love talking to a camera, but less so for others (who, if they have to talk at all about their learning, may prefer podcasting–or simply recording audio files that are never published.

14. Collage

You could do a normal collage of learning reflections, but a multimedia collage is also possible–maybe a sketchnote with a voiceover recorded as a YouTube video to share as a quick presentation with the class (or absent students).

15. Journaling

The University of Missouri-St Louis offers 3 kinds of journals that demonstrate the different possibilities of the otherwise vanilla-sounding ‘journaling.’

1. Personal Journal – Students will write freely about their experience. This is usually done weekly. These personal journals may be submitted periodically to the instructor, or kept as a reference to use at the end of the experience when putting together an academic essay reflecting their experience. (Hatcher 1996)

2. Dialogue Journal – Students submit loose-leaf pages from a dialogue journal bi-weekly (or otherwise at appropriate intervals) for the instructor to read and comment on. While labor intensive for the instructor, this can provide continual feedback to students and prompt new questions for students to consider during the semester. (Goldsmith, 1995)

3. Highlighted Journal – Before students submit the reflective journal, they reread personal entries and, using a highlighter, mark sections of the journal that directly relate to concepts discussed in the text or in class. This makes it easier for the instructor to identify the student to reflect on their experience in light of course content. (Gary Hesser, Augsberg College)

15 Strategies For Students To Reflect On Their Learning; image attribution Flickr user woodleywonderworks

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Four Stages Of A Self-Directed Learning Model

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self-directed learning stagesFour Stages Of A Self-Directed Learning Model

by TeachThought Staff

Self-Directed Learning is not new–but is perhaps misunderstood.

In the linked post above, Terry Heick wondered about the relationship between self-directed learning and the purpose of education:

The goal of the model isn’t content knowledge (though it should produce that), but rather something closer to wisdom–learning how to learn, understanding what’s worth understanding, and perhaps most importantly, analyzing the purpose of learning (e.g., personal and social change). It also encourages the student to examine the relationship between study and work–an authentic ‘need to know’ with important abstractions like citizenship and legacy.

Studied in terms of adult education and vocation for years, self-directed learning is increasing in popularity for a variety of reasons, including growing dissatisfaction with public schooling, and the rich formal and informal learning materials available online. This is the ‘age of information’ after all.

Self-directed learning is one response, something slideshare user Barbara Stokes captures in this chart, based on the model by Gerald Grow. The four stages–very similar to the gradual release of responsibility model–appear below.

The Four Stages Of The Self-Directed Learning Model

Learner                            Teacher

Stage 1   Dependent        Authority, Coach

Examples: Coaching with immediate feedback. Drill. Informational lecture. Overcoming deficiencies and resistance.

Stage 2:  Interested          Motivator, Guide

Examples: Inspiring lecture plus guided discussion. Goal-seting and learning strategies.

Stage 3:  Involved             Facilitator

Examples: Discussion faciliated by teacher who participates as equal. Seminar. Group projects.

Stage 4:  Self-Directed     Consultant, Delegator

Examples: Internship, dissertation, individual work or self-directed study group.

Theories of Teaching and Learning: The Staged Self-Directed Learning Model, G.Grow. from Barbara Stokes; Four Stages Of A  Self-Directed Learning Model

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The Benefits Of Competency-Based Assessment

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The Benefits Of Competency-Based Assessment

contributed by David Garrick, Dean of Graduate School of Education, UCDS College for School Culture

The general idea behind a competency-based assessment is that it provides students and families with specific feedback about student performance that can lead to a clearer understanding of progress and skills gained over time.

As Dean of the Graduate School of Education at the UCDS College for School Culture, I’ve gained a unique perspective on the possibilities that competency-based assessment can provide. Students who attend University Child Development School (UCDS) in Seattle don’t earn A’s, B’s, or F’s. Instead, student assessments are communicated through our own set of competency-based continua for various subjects.

These continua, paired with narrative communication with students and families, make up the school’s framework for assessment, based on skill progressions. I’ve seen the benefits first-hand in Pre-K through elementary classrooms, and also in training at the graduate level.  

By providing specific information about the academic and social skills students exhibit, schools provide detailed and actionable information. This empowers students in their learning and educators in their teaching practices. Here’s a general overview of the benefits of competency-based assessment.

Building Competency-Based Assessments: The Benefits

1. Improved clarity & transparency

Greater clarity allows teachers and families to identify areas of strength and areas where students may need additional support. In all cases, these assessments provide teachers with detailed knowledge about student progress that can be used to build individualized goals and educational plans.

In addition to evaluating proficiency in these domains, teachers should regularly share comprehensive feedback individual student accomplishments and struggles. For example, UCDS teachers provide narrative commentary to families where they focus on how a student engages within each domain, as well as notable accomplishments and struggles.

Focusing on comprehensive feedback brings clarity to the learner, and clarity to the family about what’s happening in the classroom. Letter grades don’t show the full picture (suggesting alternatives to letter grades), and a competency-based model is better equipped to provide students, families and future schools with clear information about each student’s social and academic progress.

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2. More seamless personalization of learning

Through Competency-Based Learning, educators have a better chance to provide a deeper view into each student’s learning attitudes and strategies and can provide resources that best support individual needs. This type of information is key to understanding the unique modes, strategies, and coaching to which each student responds best. This is the foundation of personalized learning.

3. It helps shift towards a culture of assessment

To successfully adopt competency-based strategies, teachers and administrators must first reevaluate assessment. While traditional forms of assessment (i.e., exams and quizzes) are valuable when placing students on a general scale of progress, they don’t show the whole picture. Making changes to assessment can be daunting for some educators, especially those who have been using traditional assessment practices throughout their career. It can also be a shift for parents to evaluate their student’s performance without a grade.

It’s important that teachers pursue resources and professional development that introduce different methods of assessing student progress, and why they hold value. As every teacher knows, the learning never stops – and by staying on top of current trends, curriculum can be adapted to meet every students’ needs.

4. Students better understand their own learning profile

Through comprehensive, competency-based assessment methods, teachers can help students to reach college and career readiness with greater self-knowledge about their learning approaches and needs. Working from a continuum of skills ensures that every student is being challenged in a way that is appropriate to what they want and need to learn and that educators can give individualized support as needed to help them move forward.

Removing the stress of being placed on a tiered grading scale shifts the focus back to learning, while building the confidence to make mistakes. Students take ownership of their learning. They feel empowered when mastering a skill and learn to identify what’s next.

Conclusion

For teachers, competency-based assessment brings depth and value to curriculum. With the focus shifted away from letters and percentages, students become more involved in long-term progress and are more apt to become engaged and take risks while learning.

Ranking students based on undefined competencies and then using that rank to determine their future prospects and contributions is a practice best left to past eras. Competency-based assessment provides more detailed information that promotes better-targeted teaching and learning for all parties involved.  

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5 Learning Strategies That Make Students Curious

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Causing curiosity in students boils down to knowing that student.

5 Learning Strategies That Make Students Curious

by Terry Heick

Understanding where curiosity comes from is the holy grail of education.

Education, of course, is different than learning but both depend on curiosity.

Education implies a formal, systematic, and strategic intent to cause learning. In this case, content to be learned is identified, learning experiences are planned, learning results are assessed, and data from said assessments play some role in the planning of new learning experiences. Learning strategies are applied, and snapshots of understanding are taken as frequently as possible.

This approach is clinical and more than a smidgeon scientific. It arrests emotion and spontaneity in pursuit of planning and precision, a logical trade in the eyes of science.

Of course, very little about learning is scientific. While data, goals, assessment, and planning should all play a role in any system that purports to actually accomplish anything, learning and education are fundamentally different. The former is messy and personal, painful and fantastic. The latter attempts to assimilate the former—or at least streamline it as much as possible in the name of efficiency.

An analogy might help. (I love teaching with analogies.)

learning : education :: true love : dating service

True love may very well come from a dating service, and dating services do all they can to make it happen, but in the end—well, there’s a fair bit of hocus pocus at work behind it all.

Hubris & Education

Education is simultaneously the most noble and hubristic of all endeavors. There are two minds to every educator. This may all reek of sensationalism, but watch anyone at play, honing a craft, lost in a book, or engaged in a digital simulation and you’ll see a completely different person—one there physically, but far removed in spirit.

In a better place.

Causing this in a classroom is possible, but is as often the result of good fortune than good planning. The best substitutes that can masquerade as curiosity are dutiful compliance and engagement. Neither of these are curiosity, which has among its sources a strong sense of volition, accountability, and curiosity.

Here, let me try.

I want to show you what I can do.

I want to know.

And that last one—a sign of curiosity–is a bugger, one we’ve talked about before. Like the caffeine in coffee, the chords on a guitar, or the wet in water, genuine curiosity is not a thing, it’s the thing.

Not temporarily wanting to know, or being vaguely interested in an answer, but being able to put together past experience and knowledge like the millions of fibers on a network–only to be maddeningly stopped from branching further without understanding or knowing this one bit.

Like stopping an incredible movie right at the climax—that awful, crazy feeling inside would be unfulfilled curiosity—and it’d just kill you not to know. But where does it come from?

And can you consistently cause it in a learner?

If formal learning environments driven by outcomes-based systems have taught us nothing else, it’s that while we often can “cause” something to happen in learner, it is only by considerable effort, resources, and angst.

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But we certainly can create ideal conditions where natural curiosity can begin to grow. What we do when it happens—and disrupts our planned lessons and tidy little units—is another story altogether.

5 Things That Make Students Curious

1. Revisit Old Questions

The simplest curiosities arise from old questions that were never fully answered, or that no attempt to answer was made.

Of course, any question worth its salt is never ‘fully answered’ any more than a good conversation is ever finished, but as we learn and reflect and grow, old answers can look positively awkward, as they are bound by old knowledge.

Strategy to actuate: Revisit old questions—through a journal prompt, Socrative discussion, QFT (Question Formulation Technique), or even a fishbowl discussion. And also revisit the thinking from the first go-round to see what has changed.

2. Model & Promote Ambition

Ambition precedes curiosity. Without wanting to advance in position, thinking, or design, curiosity is simply a biological and neurological reaction to stimulus. But ambition is what makes us human, and its fraternal twin is curiosity.

Strategy to actuate: Well thought-out mentoring, peer-to-peer modeling, Project-Based Learning and a genuine ‘need to know.’

3. Play

A learner at play is a signal that there is a comfortable mind focused on a fully-internalized goal.

It may or may not be the same goal as those given externally, but play is hypnotic and more efficient than the most well-planned instructional sequence. A learner playing and learning through play, nearly by definition, is curious about something, or otherwise they’re simply manipulating bits and pieces mindlessly.

Strategy to actuate: Game-Based Learning and learning games and simulations like Armadillo Run, Civilization VI, Bridge Constructor, and Age of Empires all empower the learner to play. Same with Challenge-Based learning and other forms of learning.

4. The Right Collaboration At The Right Time

Seeing what is possible modeled by peers is powerful stuff for learners. Some may not be initially curious about content, but seeing what peers accomplish can be a powerful actuator for curiosity. How did they do this? How might I do what they did in my own way? Which of these ideas I’m seeing are valuable to me—right here, right now–and which are not?

Strategy to actuate: Grouping is not necessarily collaboration. To actuate collaboration, and thus curiosity, students must have a genuine need for another resource, idea, perspective, or something else otherwise not immediately available to them. Cause them to need something, not simply to finish an assignment, but to achieve the goal they set for themselves.

5. Use Diverse & Unpredictable Content

Diverse content is likely the most accessible pathway to at least a modicum of curiosity from learners. New projects, new games, new novels, new poets, new things to think about.

Strategy to actuate: Invite the learners to understand the need for a resource or bit of content and have them source it. Instant diversity class-wide, and likely divergence from where you were going with it all. At worst you’ve got engaged learners, and a real shot at curiosity.

5 Learning Strategies That Make Students Curious

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