Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Don't just own your learning, write your own story!

Reflections are often one of those words that are touted around as a good thing for students and teachers to do. But why? Although I am sure that there are likely many great psychological, scientific and other reasons, my own experience has led me to believe that without deep critical reflection, one keeps making the same mistakes. Without deep reflection, we can not hope to challenge our assumptions, perspectives and hidden commitments. Without reflection, we can not take ownership of our lives and its direction.

The reality however, despite my love of reflections, student (and sometimes teacher) reflections are often shallow, and as a result, have little benefit. So when does reflecting have the greatest value? At what point does it actually become worth the investment in both effort and time?

With the above in mind, I have been doing some reading about adult cognitive development (the things one has time for over the holidays...). Using the ideas from experts such as Robert Kegan and Marcia Baxter Macgolda, I then set about developing some sort of a guide that might help me to generate deeper, more purposeful reflections - and hopefully my students too! The idea is to move through increased levels of complexity towards greater ownership of my experiences, perspectives, assumptions, commitments, relationships etc. in order to make better decisions around the course of action I will take in being the author of my life story. So basically, I'm hoping to take the "learner agency" buzzword to the next level - don't just own your learning, write your own story!

Click here to download


I have been grappling with how to scaffold students towards more depth in their thinking for some time. Below is a resource I produced last year. Students were asked to draw two cards from the pile. They would have to address the question in their reflection. I have also used these cards in discussions to generate more depth. During the discussion, you have to 'play' your card by asking the question at a relevant moment. This is great for a staff discussion to move beyond the day to day! I've also made two levels of cards to provide reflectees (see what I did there?) a choice as to their level of challenge.


Level 1 questions: Click here to download
Level 2 questions: Click here to download