Saturday, March 28, 2015

Reflections Enrich Reading & Reading Informs Learning


Reading is a vital aspect of learning & so are reflections. Mere reading that is not accompanied by real reflections is empty and devoid of genuine effort in wrestling with the text at hand. What follows is a description of how this kind of assignment is handled and what are some of its benefits and drawbacks.

Why reflections & how?

In my classes, students are to read long prior to coverage of any given material. Lately, I have begun requiring that they write a reflection statement (minimum of 3 sentences) per section that they read. In order for any given reflection to be worthy of consideration, it must contain as many of the following elements as possible. 

  • A brief summary of the read section
  • A personal introspection on what has been read
  • A minimum of one Wonderism (thoughtful question)
  • A minimum of one statement connecting concepts to art or real life in general

The decision of insisting on the use of reflections was made to ensure that the following educational objectives are met.

  • To guarantee that some reading did indeed occur.
  • To, some reasonable extent, ensure that any reading was in fact done by the given student not mere copying from peers did occur.
  • To drive home the vital importance of reflections in the learning process.
  • To identify any misconceptions students may have regarding concepts they encounter in their reading so that I tailor my lessons to address such misconceptions.
  • To foster within students the importance of the interconnectedness between various areas of learning.

Where is the beef?

Following are samples of students' reflections and the highlights are mine to make sure that I address students' reflections to inform how learning would progress via discussions and elucidations.

Student 1 Reflection Sample!
Student 2 Reflection Sample!
Student 3 Reflection Sample!
Student 4 Reflection Sample!
Student 5 Reflection Sample!
Student 6 Reflection Sample!
Closing Thoughts!

1) When one keeps in mind that the above samples were reflection prior to coverage, one is impressed with the amount of thought the students had spent in crafting them. Kudos, dear Astro-Cools (as I call them), you did your instructor proud!

2) The questions that were raised were addressed in three ways, me answering them directly, me asking the class to discuss them in pairs and then as a class, or me suggesting that we postpone the answering till the right opportunity arises.

3) This method of formatively assessing students on reading has yielded a 90% - 95% completion level; a number that makes any instructor both proud and happy.

4) The only downside of the approach is that it is time consuming both in class (for the students and me) and outside of class (for the students.) But, my hunch is that in the long run it would be benefit both the students and me from pedagogical point of view. What do you think?

Thank you for reading the post and please feel free to add your own comments, suggestions, insights, and of course questions! What would be better than reflecting on a post about about reflections?