Eric Ritholz, Online Learning Coordinator
Have you ever heard a student ask, “what did I learn?” This seems simple enough. Just look through the course and lesson objectives from the syllabus or list off the unit titles and you have it, right? Even if a student feels complete ownership of their achievements, they still may have a vague answer to this. So where does that leave us? Grades? The idea that I know 85% from a course on post-industrial America, or basic chemistry doesn’t resonate or create a real sense of achievement, the effect of which may significantly impact a student’s participation, efficacy, and motivation.
Typically, a modern student has been exposed to reinforced examples of achievement and the variables that have cumulatively led to that achievement through the use of games and apps. This does not necessarily mean that an instructor must gamify their courses, but it is important to recognize that these constructs are familiar to their students conceptually. This is where self-reflection can make a significant difference. Not only does this provide an instructor with feedback that they can use even better than asking students directly. In whatever form, (narrative, outline, timeline, and so on) a student’s personal accounting of what they learned, understood, and experienced, even in response to the most basic of prompts illustrates their accomplishments and their path. My first thought in implementing this was that it would simply be a long answer prose version of a survey and it can be just that. I would still recommend considering a more qualitative route. The act of explanation can a very powerful tool.
How would you implement personal self-reflection, in general? For modalities with Online elements (Online mix, Hybrid mix, synchronous or asynchronous)? Would you use a third-party app, like google forms? A discussion board thread? Maybe, a document upload or assignment? A reflective journal could be the right fit for more writing-intensive classes. For this category of feedback, the best practice would be whatever format you and your students are already familiar with or can adapt quickly. For some disciplines, something as direct and granular as unit checklists would work best. For others, anything from a single-paragraph summary to an infographic would be most effective.
Another level of experiential learning is Team reflection, allowing students to consider their progress cumulatively. This organically combines review and group study with cooperative learning and an increased sense of social presence. In practice, you will find students to be far more forthcoming than on the individual level. Students will detail a combined sense of accomplishment while identifying with their group areas they as individuals need to improve with each other. The anonymity of illustrating their progress as a team reflection also encourages a more detailed expression of areas that need improvement to their instructor as well.
Tools and methods for self-reflection are beneficial to the instructor as well as the students. The product of which is, in essence, the portfolio of your work. You can reference this to further guide your students when making improvements to your course design. Students become more aware of their own progress and that of their classmates all the while increasing the frequency of student engagement. Students can make a habit of self-reflection that carries forward throughout their academic life and the ability to clearly represent their skills to employers.