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Weekly Reflections

Sara Rutzky
,
Wake Technical Community College
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This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process.

This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.


This page first made public: Apr 30, 2008

Summary

This is a weekly short writing assignment that forces students to summarize materials presented in class, to reflect on their own performance and understanding of the material, and to relate it to their individual lives.

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Context

Audience

Introductory physical geology class that is composed primarily of non-majors

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

The requirements call for the student to type and double-space their writing, so they should be able to use a word-processor. Otherwise, no other skills or special knowledge are needed

How the activity is situated in the course

In my course, we cover about a chapter in the book per week. Reflections are due the day after we finish a chapter, so this means that they are reflecting on the course about once a week. Over the course of the semester, reflecting becomes habit for the students.

Goals

Content/concepts goals for this activity

There are few purely content-related goals for this activity, as reflections are written on every subject we cover.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

The goals of the reflection assignment are to encourage students to reflect on their experiences in class, pushing them towards interacting with the material at higher and higher levels of thinking. In order to write a single reflection, they have to remember material that was presented in class, be able to restate it in a clear manner that demonstrates some level of understanding, apply their understanding of the material to some aspect of their lives or experiences, synthesize concepts and subjects from chapter to chapter, and evaluate their own progress towards learning the material. When a student writes a reflection well, they really start to THINK about the material, which is wonderful to see.

Other skills goals for this activity

A secondary goal of the reflections is to encourage writing skills through familiarity with the process of writing. When I grade reflections, I grade them essentially based on how deeply students are thinking about the material - I completely ignore typos, grammatical errors, etc. However, over the course of a semester, a single student will write 15 reflections; the more a student is forced to write, the more comfortable they become with the process. Comparing reflections that are written later in the semester with those written early on demonstrates that students who make many mistakes at the beginning of the semester make fewer ones as time goes on.

Description of the activity/assignment

About once a week, which approximately corresponds to each chapter covered, students are required to write a 2-3 paragraph reflection on the material covered in class. They may use information found in the book, or their experiences during lecture and lab, but they need to discuss their thoughts on the material. This written assignment encourages students to think more deeply about the material discussed, as well as to become more comfortable with the writing process.

Determining whether students have met the goals

In order to evaluate the reflections, I read every reflection, and grade them using a rubric, which I have uploaded as an additional file.

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