Teaching Strategies, Portfolios and Daily Reflection
Students struggle to accurately verbalise what it is they are learning. They may be able to articulate what they are “doing”, but articulating what they are learning, and how they are learning, is a different story. Therefore, it is important for teachers to try and build reflection into their daily teaching routine. This can be done with pen and paper, or through video and audio, and encourages students to take a few moments to understand not just what they have learned, but why and how they have learned it. This allows them to make a deeper connection to the information and the content provided.
This kind of thinking naturally leads us to discuss learning portfolios. When we converse about portfolios, we usually talk about the tools, how to save, and how to publish a student’s work. However, we can take a different approach to portfolio work, an approach that makes them summative, and viewed as an add-on to the end of a project, course, or activity. To do this we need to focus on the process of curating, reflecting and sharing.
To be valuable, portfolios need to not only provide insight into what a student has created to represent their learning, but also provide insight into how and why the created it. If you want your students to become fully rounded learners, they should have the opportunity to connect the content with the learning objectives.
With the above in mind, we take a look at progress and performance portfolios.
Progress and Performance Portfolios
By collecting learning artefacts, and placing them into a portfolio, a student is given the opportunity to reflect on their learning experience, and recognise their growth. This kind of teaching brings the act of learning to life.
In the creative sphere, writers and artists keep a portfolio of their work to reflect on their inspiration and development. There is a reason Leonardo DaVinci collected hundreds of notebooks that documented his work and thoughts. Students should do the same, and curate a body of work that shows their progress, and thought process throughout the learning experience.
As educators, we should encourage our students to document their thinking daily. By adding reflection to the teaching process, it has become less of a “task” and more of an engaging, organic learning process. This builds self-regulation and self-awareness, helping the learner progress and grow. By documenting how they learn, they will gain confidence in the material and make connections across courses and units that they may not have made previously.
Reflection and Teaching
So, how do we teach reflection? Students can struggle with this concept because they don’t comprehend what they were supposed to learn and why they were learning it. What if students understood from the beginning of the school year that their work was designed to support a few essential questions such as: What are the characteristics of a good critical thinker?
If a student keeps the important question in mind throughout the school year, this would have enormous impact on their progress.
As a teacher, you can also provide your students with visible thinking routines that aid in the learner’s reflection. Harvard’s Project Zero created strategic questions to support student inquiry and reflection. For example, a teacher can ask a student to answer the below questions at the end of every day or week:
This assists students by encouraging them to make connections with previous content, and reassures them that it is ok to ask new questions, and acknowledge what they still need to learn and understand.
As students reflect on every learning experience, they are aware of the processes and strategies that make them flourish, letting them learn from their successes, challenges and failures.