Reflecting on Reflection in Ed.

City Refraction, City Reflection
Image by lrargerich via Flickr

In Jez’ e-Rambler blog, he meditates on the importance of reflection in education. Researchers have long known that reflection is an excellent way to stimulate critical thinking. By comparing new learnings with what you already know, you are able to fit the new information into your existing mental schemata. This helps your brain form connections– finding a place in your existing worldview for new perspectives and new information. This whole process aids in retention of knowledge, and helps students see new possibilities beyond the page. This is very different from “pouring knowledge” into someone’s head– reflection is about actively engaging with new ideas and internalizing their logic and value.

As a busy teacher, I remember having a hard time “fitting reflection in” to my busy course schedule. It seemed like an extra step after our already daunting task of teaching and assessing the core information. What role could reflective journaling play in my course?

Jez describes professional development organizations which recognize blogging as a legitimate form of assessment. It shows evidence of growth, provides a permanent record of learning, and forces the learner to put their ideas into words (thereby clarifying ideas).

I believe that having students maintain an ongoing, weekly blog where students compare new readings to prior information is a very valuable way for them to consolidate their thinking. You may structure their writing prompts to bulid towards main course objectives, then use the blogging activity as a preparation for assessment (or as the assessment itself).

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