Thursday, December 15, 2016

Student Reflection Is Good for Learning and for Teaching

I might have gotten a little carried away with that response...but who could blame an English teacher for a little excitement when a student actually ASKS, "What is a past participle again?"

In my previous blog, I reflected on what I thought my students had learned in their last essay. I also want to put it out there that as great as it is for teachers to be reflective, it is equally as important for students to be reflective. An assessment—even a summative one—should never be the end—for either teacher or student. And unless it’s the last class of the year, we can help students form the habit and experience the benefit of reflection…as well as benefit from their reflection ourselves as teachers. Note to self: Never, if you can help it, let students turn in an assessment without some form of reflection—what did you learn? what did you struggle with? what progress did you make? what question do you have? what do you want to remember next time?

When my students turn in an assessment I try, at minimum, to ask them to self-assess on the rubric, and to answer 2 questions on the back: (1) What did you learn while working on this assessment? (2) What’s 1 specific question you have for Mrs. E about your performance on this assessment?

The self-assessment on the rubric does not influence their final mark, but it is a way to insure that students are familiar with the rubric, and to teach them that it is not a sign of competence to hand something in and say, “I have no idea whether that is an A or an F, but at least I’m done!” It is a sign of competence to know your strengths and weaknesses. And if there is a big discrepancy between a student’s self-assessment and my assessment, that’s the sign of a misconception somewhere that needs to be addressed!

Here are some of the answers to question #1: What did you learn about writing from working on this essay?
  • I think I improved on using sources in my writing. I’m still not too great at it, but it’s definitely better.
  • In this essay I learned that writing in such a broad topic I need to have a concrete conclusion. Also punctuation for sandwiching quotes.
  • I tried to work on mixing in the quotes to add to my writing.
  • As I was writing this essay, I learned of a new way to organize an essay.
  • I felt like connecting my ideas together got better, and my transitions improved, too.

Here are some of the answers to question #2: What is 1 specific question you have for Mrs. E about your writing in this essay?
  • I still have a lot of trouble with citations—there’s always something wrong with the formatting—but I think that’s something I need to familiarize myself with and practice on my own.
  • I had a lot of different metaphors that went in many different directions. Was it confusing? Was it too everywhere?
  • How to integrate a quote into an essay so that it becomes a part of your writing and not out of place.
  • When you helped me with the “striven” part of my essay, I was wondering, what is a past participle again?
  • How can I write like this on the actual AP exam?

When students are able not only to identify but also to take responsibility for their writing strengths and weaknesses. When they are the ones asking questions about their use of metaphors, integration of quotations, and what is a past participle again? When they are asking how they can do their best work under pressure….teaching is easy. It is, as a number of them quoted from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Education,” “mutual delight.” 

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