The Reflection Step

Initial Publication Date: April 27, 2010

Why it matters

In the rush to end a class meeting, it may be tempting to skip the reflection step. However research on learning shows that it is important for students to think explicitly about what they have learned, making connections to what they knew before, and identifying what specifically has changed in their thinking. More on research about metacognition-thinking about thinking

It is also important for students to practice newly learned concepts in a variety of contexts. Otherwise students may connect the concept with one specific situation, missing its general applicability. See National Research Council, How People Learn for more information.

Activities to promote reflection

  1. Think-pair-share is a useful technique that promotes reflection. Before calling on students, allow each student to think about what was learned and to explain this understanding to at least one other student.
  2. Ask students to complete a short essay beginning with: "Before I completed today's activity, I thought ..." and "After completing the activity, my understanding has changed/ not changed because..." (Graff and Birkenstein 2009)
  3. Ask students to complete an classroom assessment technique such as: "The most important thing I learned today is... " and "What remains unclear to me is ..." (Angelo and Cross 1993)
  4. Show a short video in which an educated individual (perhaps a college administrator or faculty member) answers a question incorrectly about the concept under study. Ask students to write a short essay explaining why that individual believes as she/he does and why that belief is incorrect.
  5. If time permits and the concept is important, ask students to make a short video interview with an educated college staff person about the concept under study.

Activities to promote transfer to new contexts

  1. Change one or more variables in the demonstration. Then repeat the "Predict, Experience, Reflect" steps.
  2. Sequence Interactive Lecture Demonstrations so that the next activity uses the same concept, but in a more complex context. For example, begin with a simple, one-variable demonstration before asking students analyze a multi-variable situation.
  3. Apply the concept in new situation. Use a context-rich problem beginning with "You are...," putting the student in a novel situation that will require use of the concept under study. In addition, the problem may not include information that the student is expected to know, may include additional unneeded information, or may not specify the target variable.
  4. Ask students to write a variation on the problem. Students could do so in small groups and then send the problem to another group to be solved, a technique called send a problem.