Monday, 16 December 2013

Student Reflection: Why I believe it is an Essential Part of the Learning Process

I’m a person that values reflection in every aspect of my life. I reflect on myself in terms of my day to day life.  I reflect on my goals and I reflect on my effectiveness as an educator. It is through the reflective process that I am able to not only make changes and improvements to my teaching methods, but it also helps me evaluate the reasons of why I do things the way I do things. Without reflection, we merely run through the motion without having thought about why we do things. I believe reflection is an essential part of the  learning process which everyone should be involved, including our students.

There are two kinds of reflections that I get my students to do.
Reflecting on their performance and their classroom learning process.  
a) At the end of each quarter and semester, I give them a prompt questions in order to help them reflect on how things went for them. I use this opportunity to also get feedback from students about my innovative class structures. (Go to my previous blog posts to see how I structure my flipped classroom and Student Led Project Based Learning class.)

Following questions were given last week to my students.
1. How did you feel about the way the math class was structured for you this year?
2. What were some of the things you enjoyed about your math class this semester?
3. What were some of the challenges you faced in your math class this semester?
4. Share one major growth you went through as a student due to your math class.
5. How do you plan to approach the finals and the second semester for math?

I made the questions very specific because whenever I am not, they tend to just talk about their high school life in general, and I was more interested in getting some feedback on what was going on with them in my classes.

b) Whenever there has been a project or activities that were more “hands on” or “real life application simulation”, reflection of the learning process is always part of the requirement and it is stated clearly in the assessment rubric. (See my blog post about Assessing Student Created iBooks for examples.) When students do hands on activities, they would be making certain choices of how they would go about doing so. Reflection is important to make them think about the choices they made in terms of how things worked out, and how they would go about it in the future when similar choices were given.

2) Reflecting on their philosophies in life and their character as a person.
I’ve started doing this last year, and I have continued it this year. I post up “Discussion of the Week” in our class social network group (last year I used Facebook and this year I am using Schoology) which they have to participate by posting a comment. At first I thought it would just be something fun to do, to get students to think about and comment on non academic things. However, they have exceeded my expectation in what deep thinkers they are, often writing a whole paragraph. So I realised how important it is to get students thinking about themselves and not about their scores or learning. Some examples of questions I’ve posed and student responses in the last semester are:

Discussion of the Week:
"Above all else, never think you're not good enough." - Anthony Trollope
Confidence is often a serious issue for high school students, at this age of self discovery. What are some of the reasons why you would think you're not good enough? Are they external forces, or internal within yourself? What are the standards we are measuring against and why? How can we overcome that feeling not being good enough and build that confidence in ourselves?

"There is a lot of external pressure for high school students, especially in KIS. With hundreds of excellent students, each individual has to fight to make a name for him/herself. The academic level is very competitive, so the pressure is immense. Thus, it is very easy to feel like we are not good enough, that we are not capable of being as good as some of our other fellow students. I think that to overcome this, we need to focus on areas that we are good at. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, so focusing on our strengths can help raise our self-esteem."

"I would think I'm not good enough when there are situations where I feel hopeless or unable to move forward. They are both external and internal forces. External are usually grades or physical elements such as height or stamina. Internals are usually lack of motivation, mental elements such as depression or previous failed experiences. We usually measure ourselves with other people or the society. If we feel like we are worth that the person, or if we think we can not approach what the society expects from us, we usually feel that we don't have enough confidence. Basically speaking, we feel unconfident when we move through extrinsic motivations. However, we can overcome this feeling by moving with more intrinsic factors. Working not to fit into society, not to reach the expectations of others, but to work harder for ourself. When someone feels unconfident, he/she should think about what that person can do to fix their mistakes and earn the things they lack in."

Discussion of the Week:
"The past is a source of knowledge, and the future is a source of hope. Love of the past implies faith in the future." - Stephen Ambrose
What does this quote mean to you? How would you foster such love, hope and faith?

"The past serves as examples of what should be done and what should not be done so that we don't repeat the same mistakes. If you've learned from your past experiences, you're ready to shine in the future. There is a difference between clinging on to the past and embracing it. Those who cling on try to escape the future, but those who embrace are ready to create a better one."

"Personally, I disagree to a portion of the quote. Of course people learn from what happened in the past. Of course there is much to take from one's past for personal development. But, one should not "love" the past, and loving the past definitely does not take one to the next step. Faith in the future only comes with commitment for self-development, brushing off what happened before, and taking a step further. Whether good or bad being swamped by the past drags you down. It becomes a hindrance, through forms of arrogance, over satisfaction, or lack of confidence. 
Love, hope and faith only seems to come from confidence in yourself. You must be able to accept yourself, for all of the emotions above to follow. I would try to figure what I'm good at and who I really am."

Discussion of the Week:
Mark Twain says "Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear, and the blind can read." Share a story of a time when you were moved by seeing someone's kindness, whether it was a kindness shown to you or you saw it shown to someone else.

"This summer, I went to Philippines to meet the child I have been sponsoring for 6 years. When I went her, I saw a skinny child who was still very short even though she was 11. I felt so bad and gave her a trunk full of presents I have prepared for her. I got to spend one day with her and on that one day I was prepared to give her the best day of her life. I took my sponsored child, her teacher, and her mother to this hamburger shop because she said she really wanted to eat hamburger. She looked really hungry and I wanted her to eat a lot. When I ordered hamburgers for the child, her teacher and her mother, the teacher and the mother both did not even touch the hamburger and put them in their bags. I did not understand why. Also, the child did not even finish half of the burger and fries and put them away. I did not understand why she wasn't eating despite her obvious hunger. Later, I discovered that this was because she knew that the rest of her family members would want a bite of the burger as well and she wanted to save some for her family. This act made me truly look back at myself and I still think about her kindness. She could have been selfish and eaten the whole burger for herself but she did not. She was kind even when kindness was not expected of her... At that time, all the times I could have been kind or kinder popped up into my head and I sincerely realised the definition of kindness. I went to give her the best day of my life but instead, she gave me the best day of my life!"

Discussion of the Week:
"The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, he's one who asks the right questions." - Claude Levi-Strauss. Do you agree with this quote? Why/why not? Relate it to your learning approach to Math and Sciences. Do you think you have the right approach? If not, how should it be different?

"I agree with Claude Levi-Strauss' quote about scientists and asking the right questions. So much focus is on finding the right answer that people overlook the tedious and gruesome process. Great scientists and mathematicians did not all find the right answer. Take for instance Ptolemy. Obviously, he did not find the right answer, claiming that the universe is geocentric. However, he had the right question in mind: how does the universe operate? These acute, precise questions are the first step to find the truth. I think that math is similar in that knowing and understanding the concepts and asking the right questions lead to the right answer."

Discussion of the Week :
"Challenges make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew. They're what make the instrument stretch, what makes you go beyond the norm." - David L. Boren
What does Boren mean by this quote? How does it apply in your life?

"This quote is saying that taking challenges help us reach out to our full potential. We cannot stretch out our abilities without doing something outside the norm. For example, I'm scared of getting injured, however, I took the challenge of risking my physical health in order to achieve athletic success. I pushed myself to the point of even bruises and sores. Trying new things and putting them into the things we know help us challenge ourselves in a way to think "outside the box" Though we struggle through failure, we wouldn't be where we are without taking challenges."

As I have mentioned, students have exceeded my expectation on how deeply they think about the question and commenting from their heart. High school is a time when students seem to be solely focused on academics, but my hope is to give students the time and opportunity to think about some of these important issues that helps shape who they are.

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