Education Articles – Reflections on Self-Reflection by Pierre Gaite
“Meditation or serious thought about one’s character, actions, and motives.”
In a range of education contexts, including language teaching, reflection on one’s practice is considered an important part of professional development – from CELTAs to PGCEs, self-reflection forms an integral part of teaching qualifications. It is perhaps surprising, then, that more attention is not paid to encouraging student reflection in the language classroom, as it is a well-recognised tool for self-understanding and improvement.
Students and trained educators alike can be remarkably taken aback by the simple question “What have you just learnt?” This is because learning is often a semi-subconscious process; we naturally incline towards focusing on the content itself rather than how or the very fact that we are learning it. Asking a person “What have you just learnt?” is to ask them to suddenly shift their mental gaze inwards, to draw a connecting line between the subject of study and the human being studying it. For many this process does not come naturally, yet it is a skill of immense value: consciously recognising our learning means gaining a greater control over it, combining our knowledge with the realisation of what we know in order to solidify our understanding.
Students who are regularly made to engage in this practice tend to make larger strides in their learning journey, and on surer feet. Routinely taking even five or ten minutes at the end of class to refocus students’ minds in this way can be enough to enhance the value of a lesson.
The number of activities used for these lesson ‘plenaries’ are legion, but it can be as simple as merely asking students “What have we learnt today?”, “How have we learnt it?” and “Why is this important?” In doing so we can not only demonstrate the success of a lesson, but also raise students’ awareness of the value of careful introspection.
Recommended reading: Reflective Writing by K. Williams , M. Woolliams and J. Spiro