Engaging students in roles normally reserved for educators, new opportunities for learning, analysis, and critical thinking emerge. Talking with students about the action they take is an important way to support their ability to make sense of what happens to them.
Putting language to experiences is a process we fine-tune over our lifetime, and through reflection we help students develop the skills they need to be successful educators.
How To Reflect
Reflection is an intentional process, and following are some important tips for reflection with students:
- Reflection is storytelling. Students are familiar with storytelling – the videogames they play, the books they read, and the times they spend with their friends are all filled with stories. Encouraging them to tell their stories of what happened engages them by helping them make meaning and place value on their experiences.
- Help students find the words they need. Reflection is best done as a shared activity that creates safe space and opportunities. Remember to appreciate their contributions and elaborate on them from your own memory.
- Ask specific questions. Help students talk and reinforce them by encouraging them to be specific and speak their truth. Rather than asking, “What did you do after school,” you might ask, “What did you find out on Internet?” Talk together about what students found most interesting.
- Talk with students during events to help with learning and recall. In addition to pointing ou specific details, educators can help students link what they have done with earlier experiences and knowledge. “This makes me think of that day when…”
- Follow the lead of students. Sometimes students cannot divide their attention between doing and reflecting. Be aware of the needs of students and wait for the right moment.
- Documentation can make reflection easier. Whether it is pictures of students relaxing or art students draw, a physical record helps facilitate meaningful discussion.
- Reflect early and often. Talk about what happened while the experience is still fresh, but revisit it later. The trip home is a good time to discuss what students learned at the city council meeting – and later you can write a story about it or review the pictures you took. Reflecting on your own reflections can lead to deeper understandings.
Meaningful student involvement cannot happen in a vacuum. Educators and students should take responsibility for learning through Student Voice by engaging students in conscious critical reflection by examining what was successful and what failed. Students and adults can also work together to identify how to sustain and expand the Cycle of Meaningful Student Involvement by effectively returning to the first step.