We all benefit from guided reflection that is connected with planning for the future. The end of a unit or semester is a great moment for instructors to guide students in thoughtful, goal-oriented reflection. It’s easy to reflect in a way that is not particularly useful — we see this kind of reflection when students apologize for their poor work and promise to do better. The students are sincere, and they feel badly, but they haven’t been able to take those broad general feelings and intentions and turn them into action.
In class, at the beginning of a new unit or the beginning of a semester, lead students through a simple pair / share or small group activity that is structured around a series of basic questions.
- Write for a few minutes about what went well. Be specific and identify at least three things that went well.
- Look at those things that went well — why were you successful? What were the actions you took, or the events that occurred, that enabled that success?
- Write for a few minutes about what did not go well. Again, be specific and identify at least three things that did not go well.
- What happened to make you unsuccessful in these moments? Where did you get derailed, exactly?
- What could you do differently next time? Brainstorm a bit, but don’t be surprised if you get stuck. Your peers and I can help.
After students have completed the exercise, invite them to share and discuss in pairs or small groups, but then return to a full class discussion. As an instructor, you likely have access to strategies and University resources that students may not be aware of. Review the resources listed in your syllabus, or check the Students in Need resource.
Once your discussion is complete, ask students to write again.
6. What plans do you have to make this next unit / semester a successful one? Identify some specific activities you can engage now to prepare you for the bumps in the road that you will inevitably encounter.