The best personal qualities we can have beyond school don't simply define what we've learned...
The use of learning reflections in a classroom is a powerful practice for any modern learner. Students are usually frank and honest in their assessment of their own performance and that of their peers. Encouraging learner reflections and self-assessment practices can add a powerful dimension to learning in any classroom.
Reflecting on the day’s learning activities allows your learners to:
- Consider their actions and choices
- Reflect on decisions
- Review and process new knowledge
- Incorporate teacher feedback
- Solidify important concepts
- Decide their future learning pathways
We're going to take a look at 8 learner reflections featured by Terry Heick in the TeachThought article 8 Reflective Questions To Help Any Student Think About Their Learning, and expand on them a little bit.
8 Learning Reflections for Critical Thinking
- What surprised you today, and why?
- What’s the most important thing you learned today, and why do you think so?
- What do you want to learn more about, and why?
- When were you the most creative, and why do you think that is?
- What made you curious today? How does learning feel different when you’re curious?
- When were you at your best today, and why?
- Assuming we were studying the same thing and you could decide and have access to anything, where would you start tomorrow, and why?
- What can/should you do with what you know?
In his article, Terry stresses that these learner reflections have applications across various grade levels and learning styles. Since reflection on learning is vital in any classroom environment, it helps that such tools are useful no matter what your modern classroom looks like. From his article:
"Why the brain actually benefits from reflection is a matter of neurology, but the extensive research is clear: Prediction, reflection, and metacognition are pillars for the thoughtful classroom. The questions below were created to be, as much as possible, useful with most students at most ages and grade levels with a little rewording."
The reflective questions below are essential questions in their own right. Deeply exploratory and richly engaging, they'll inspire open and meaningful discussion when used as learning reflections. Encourage your students to debrief with these questions anytime for building higher-order thinking and reflection skills.
1. What surprised you today, and why?
Learning should be surprising sometimes, and always in a good way. What often surprises educators the most about their students is that they demonstrate being able to do something they never thought they could. Ask your learners to think about something they accomplished or discovered—either about the content or about themselves—that they didn't expect.
2. What’s the most important thing you learned today, and why do you think so?
It's vital for us to ensure that our learners have a stake in what we're teaching. Otherwise, learning simply becomes a compliance task. A simple way to foster both connection and internalization of learning is to ask them this question. You'll get various answers, and that's okay. Each learner is different and with a different learning style and diverse degrees of interest.
3. What do you want to learn more about, and why?
Why not go off the beaten path from time to time? Ask your learners where they want to go next and you've always got time well spent with class activities. The more engaged and interested learners are, the more they want to learn. Focusing on tasks and pathways that matter to them ensure they stay that way.
4. When were you the most creative, and why do you think that is?
Being creative is essential to modern teaching and learning, which is why it's an Essential Fluency. Often students aren't asked when their shining creative moments were when all they want to do is express the pride they feel in what they've accomplished. Let them have those moments and they'll develop expressive communication habits and a healthy dose of self-esteem along the way.
5. What made you curious today? How does learning feel different when you’re curious?
Learning is all about fostering curiosity which is a hallmark of being a lifelong learner. When you're curious, learning is no longer a chore or simply a task needing to be performed. It becomes a conscious enthusiastic pursuit of meaningful discovery and understanding. Curiosity also helps make knowledge useful and important, so consider this one of your most vital learning reflections.
6. When were you at your best today, and why?
This one is a breath of fresh air for learners of all ages. Sometimes we make learning journeys more about what we consider to be our students' best moments, but they may think differently for reasons a teacher might not have thought of.
7. Assuming we were studying the same thing and you could decide and have access to anything, where would you start tomorrow, and why?
Crowdsourcing this input from your learners kind of goes hand in hand with point 3. By removing limitations and nurturing possibilities, it gives them a chance to help you build the best pathways of meaningful learning. It also lets students take the lead, which is part of shifting responsibility for learning to our kids.
8. What can/should you do with what you know?
In the end, we learn in order to practically apply what we've learned to our lives—otherwise, there's no point. Our kids should be equipped to handle knowledge responsibly and ethically, and be able to make it useful. Learning reflections such as this call for affirmative action, and critical thinking about what learning and knowledge are for. You can challenge learners to have open discussions about how best they can use what you teach them. Have them think personally, locally, and globally about how their learning connects them to living once school is over.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Oct 23, 2018, updated September 19, 2021