Reflecting on Student Reflection

Rick Wormeli reminds us, “The punishment for not doing work is to do the work.” The unjust act of lowering grades due to when work is completed merely damages morale; it does not motivate. I refuse to factor a behavior into an academic grade, so when students do not hand an assignment in on time, I torture them by continuously expecting them to get it to me. I need evidence of learning before I can assess proficiency and I am well aware of the mathematical injustice of the zero (especially when calculating averages on a 100 point scale). The expectation is that each student complete the assignment–which must be perceived as purposeful to learning and a respectful use of time.

With this in mind, I created a late work cover letter. It is hot pink and obnoxious, but allows students to complete work without penalty. The form letter is light-hearted but highly reflective in holding students accountable for their learning process. It also provides the teacher with a hard-to-miss paper trail for student portfolios.

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At the end of each quarter, students prepare a self-assessment reflecting on their performance for the quarter. I have students complete the rubric and support their claim with evidence of their efforts. I also urge students to complete the form with the person who cares most about their education in mind.

self assess

Again, this is a point of accountability, much of which is behavior-related; it communicates nothing about what students know and can do, but pushes them to think about factors impacting their level of success. The self-assessment is where I tend to open parent-teacher conferences. Parents love reading the sincere comments from the perspective of their child. Students are typically critical of their efforts. When students can communicate areas where they know improvement is needed, they can plan strategies for growth. In situations where students need to be challenged to refocus their goal setting at the close of the year, I enjoy reading responses to Finish Strong: Self Reflection prompts.

The most powerful way students can reflect on learning is through the metacognitive process. My favorite and most informative assessments are ones in which students communicate evidence of growth. Google Docs and Microsoft Word have comment functions where writers can highlight revised portions of their work and provide the rationale for change. This is easy for me to assess and lends clarity to the depth of learning.

Deep Level Revision with Reflection

The blue exam below could be used in any class–simply shift the evidence based on course content. The questions ask students to reflect on how they “learned with a purpose” throughout the year (or semester). They state a claim and support it with evidence and reasoning. This is the easiest way for students to show what they know and can do with their learning. You may also notice the student-friendly rubric. Students compete to supply me with the criteria I will use to assess the level of proficiency for each standard, another reflective exercise.

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Here is another example of the type of assessment I have used as a World Literature final exam:

Purpose: To reflect on and express 2nd semester learning

LEARNING WITH A PURPOSE: Essay Prompt

Please reflect on your learning throughout second semester regarding course content, literature, and self-understanding. Make specific references to knowledge you gained through research, reading, and discussion

Students have to prepare–not study–for this exam. They appreciate that. This reflective practice also eliminates a student’s temptation to cheat and a teacher’s temptation to take the scan-tron shortcut.

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