Posted by: shineonali | April 3, 2010

Reflection on Reflecting

Course 1 has finished already?  I don’t feel ready to write a final reflection–even though it’s already overdue.

Most of my educational career did not involve being asked to reflect on what I’d been learning.  It wasn’t until teacher’s college and the dog-and-pony show intellectual stimulation of creating our own year-long portfolios that I was ever asked what I thought about my learning.  And it was exhilarating, on the one hand (to finally be asked), but daunting, on the other (you want us to write how many reflections on top of all our other course work?!)

The trouble was, we were brought up in a system where your work was for the professor, not for you.  So you felt that your reflections had to be profound, all-encompassing, and polished.  Writing a reflection felt like writing an essay.  The move was towards more authentic, independent learning, but it remained within a traditional framework for evaluation.  They wowed us with the potential and the empowerment of portfolios (both for ourselves and for our future students), but then overloaded us with required components in each area, while still setting up high expectations for the “independent choice” components.  I realize now why many of us were frustrated at  the end of the year, when we found out that not everyone’s portfolios would even be seen by one of our two main professors.  We had all grown up in a system where our primary source of feedback was the teacher.  The teacher was the audience we were writing our reflections for.  Sure, other students gave us feedback on our entries occasionally, and in our heads we knew what lifelong learning meant…but in our hearts, we must have craved to impress our professors–who impressed us immensely.  We wanted to know that we were doing all right!

If we had been blogging…who knows?  We’d likely have had a wider audience giving us feedback on those reflections all year long.  Our learning would not have been “contained” in that we could have kept our blogs going beyond finishing our degrees–or we could at least have referred back to them more easily.

I still find it come to the end of this “final reflection” without referring specifically to “the process of creating the final project”, as the assignment specifies.  I feel the need to keep blogging–there are so many other things I could be writing about that came up during the course!  But for now, I need to take a cue from my own Grade 5 students, who seem to be getting the whole reflecting thing better than me.  They don’t worry if their reflection shows everything.  They know they’re not done learning, so they write about what they think now, and the questions they still have.  They sometimes answer all the guiding questions I provide, sometimes they just answer one or two, and sometimes they answer a question I didn’t ask.  They trust that they’ll be expected to reflect again and again on how their learning has grown–so they don’t feel the need to fit it all into one reflection.

Here are some questions I want to keep thinking about:

  • Are my students finding it easier to reflect because learners are different now?
  • Are schools/teachers different–do we place a higher value on thinking reflectively about one’s learning?
  • What about evaluating reflections? What criteria are appropriate?
  • Is it possible to create a kind of “reflection-fatigue” in students–do they sometimes reach a point where they are just “going through the motions”?

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