Who are reflections for?

If you teach High School (or maybe Middle School) I can almost guarantee that you’ve made a document that looks a bit like this with the intention of giving students the opportunity to reflect at the end of every unit. Faultless!

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If you’re like me, you also struggled to find the time to do it properly, students hated filling in the boxes, and the responses were pretty useless:

“study more”

“read the question”

“collaborate better”


A few months into the year and I decided to abandon the beautifully crafted document, and embraced a reflection sulking spiral. My thought process went a bit like this….

 “It’s meant to help students express their feelings, be more self aware, and improve thinking. WHY WON’T MY KIDS DO IT?”

The realisation that caused me to shift my thinking was a discussion with a colleague who simply asked me….

“Who did you make the document for?”

Default response:  “the students… everything is always for the kids.” Right?

I was using the documents to inform me about their study habits and their grades. This helped me to see if there were any issues with their revision strategies and this led to conversations with students. So yes, there were some positive outcomes for them, but it was my document; I’d set the questions, the timescale, the restrictions.

My students had no ownership of their own reflections.

Creating activities that weren’t all about me getting information was actually pretty tough. Giving them choices of reflection activities, mixing up the timeline, and making it less formal were some of the main changes that really contributed to the shift. Focusing on their feelings towards the subject as well as how their thinking was changing this was way more useful (and interesting!) for them. The exam related stuff was still happening but in a different space.

As teachers we do tons of reflection activities without even knowing it, but when it comes to recording them it can be repetitive and boring for students if they don’t feel like they have ownership of the thinking. Giving them ownership of the space; the freedom to write colloquially and using diagrams to display their feelings makes it feel more like their own space.

Sometimes the recorded reflections that they produce don’t inform me about their learning, or their study habits or their approaches to Chemistry at all. But it’s not about me. It’s about them.

Have you had any negative feedback from students about reflection?

Have you got any awesome ideas for giving them more ownership?



One thought on “Who are reflections for?

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