The Importance of Reflection
Madison Lakey, Middle School Faculty and ELL

At the end of each unit, quarter, semester or before parent/guardian-teacher conferences your teacher might ask you to reflect on your learning. For example, they will ask you to reflect on The Habits of Learning. They may ask how you are doing on them, but what does that mean, what should you truly be reflecting on and why does it matter to your learning? 

The idea of reflecting might seem unnecessary, but think about what you get out of it. Reflection is a process of examining ourselves, including our perspectives, attributes, experiences, interactions and actions. It helps us gain insight and see how to move forward. 

In the classroom, self-reflection means examining the way you learn. The implication of self-reflection implies that without thinking deeply about how we learn, we can never gain the insight necessary to correct poor habits and affirm good ones. The cognitive process of self-reflection not only helps students improve learning outcomes, but fosters self-regulated learning, a cyclical process that involves planning to complete an academic task, using strategies to monitor progress, evaluating the outcome and using that knowledge to guide future tasks. 

Together reflection and self-regulated learning help teach responsibility. By asking students to think about how they can improve their learning experience encourages them to consider learning objectives and their own part in developing knowledge. 

Reflection at the end of a semester brings students back to course objectives as they evaluate what they have gained from a class. However, as teachers, we can inject self-reflection into our classrooms in several ways at any time during the unit or semester. 

Here are some ideas for self-reflection:

  • Discuss and explain reflections: Talk about why reflection is important and how it makes students into better learners not just in school, but in life. Repeat this as much as needed or desired throughout the course or unit.  
  • Assign reflections during class time: Assign a reflection during class to students about a specific task or assignment. It is important to use class time to have students complete the reflection because it is found that sometimes they do not put as much thought into the reflection. 
  • Accept different reflection modalities: Students don’t always need to write their reflections. Some students might prefer to make a video or audio response to their work. 

In the end, self-reflection helps our students, but it also helps instructors understand what students believe they have learned.