Before really going into Step 2 of my ‘supercharging student reflection’ blog post series, I want to take this opportunity to outline why reflection has played such a huge part of my PE program over the years. However, before delving into this, I want to address a common misconception related to student reflection first.
I have received emails from countless teachers over the years who have surfed my blog looking at different examples of student assessment and reflection. Although appreciative of the work I share, many of these teachers have told me that they do not have the extra 10-15 minutes that it takes to give students time to reflect. This is a common misconception that must be addressed. I have always aimed to keep student reflection time within a limit of roughly 3-7 minutes during my PE classes. This is mostly done at the end of class, but can happen any time depending upon the task at hand. However, in saying this, a culture and environment must be set up that allows the students to understand the structure and routines related to reflecting on their own learning. This takes time to develop, but with consistency it becomes a part of the fabric and design of the PE experience.
As a general rule of thumb, student reflection takes up roughly 3-7 minutes of my PE classes, however, there are times that it can take longer. In some cases, it may take 10-15 minutes, but this is always at the end of the unit during the summative assessment task. I have sound pedagogical justification for taking this extra time at the end of the unit because it is imperative to allow the students the time necessary to substantiate their thoughts, beliefs, ideas, and growth that has taken place during whatever unit they had just finished up.
In large part student reflection has the ability to tap into the affective domain which has everything to do with personal and social development that can be summed up below:
The affective domain (Krathwohl, Bloom, Masia, 1973) includes the manner in which we deal with things emotionally, such as feelings, values, appreciation, enthusiasms, motivations, and attitudes.
Setting up a culture of student reflection allows the teacher to recognize how the students feel about themselves and others, to deal with their aspirations and problems, and to gain better insight into the attitudes and beliefs that they hold about their own learning (Parker and Cutforth 1996).
When educating the whole student, we must take every opportunity possible to address the affective domain and in doing so, we put ourselves in a better position to effectively listen and respond to our students’ genuine needs. Placing perfect fit challenges upon them becomes even more possible when we give them opportunities to reflect on their own learning journeys ultimately leading to further growth and development in regards to their performance in the subject area of physical education itself but also well beyond its boarders and boundaries.
Furthermore, the students' reflections document and demonstrate the personal and social growth that can occur in physical education programs, and this information could be used to support claims regarding the importance of our subject in the school curriculum (Parker and Cutforth 1996). A definite added bonus as we endeavour to advocate for for our subject area to those who make important decisions about its future.
In Step 1 of my ‘supercharging student reflection’ blog post series, you read about how I used the key question “Why should PE be an important part of your school experience?” to springboard a discussion with my students. My aim was to get them to identify, on their own and with each other, why PE is so critically important in their lives. The use of provocation came into play in Step 1 and plays a part of Step 2 as well. As I reveal Step 2, I want you to truly reflect on the importance of making learning outcomes and thinking explicit and ways that you do this in your own program. It’s now time to discuss Step 2, so here we go!
As I collected all of the students responses to the key question, it was now time to sift through and have a closer look at their answers. During this process, I was able to narrow down on the most commonly mentioned ideas, thoughts, and answers. I simply circled these answers in my journal so that they stood out among all of the ideas elicited from my students.
During my prep time, I took the most commonly mentioned thoughts, ideas, and answers and created a large poster-sized visual. This visual was ready to go the next time that the students came around. I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Holy smokes, I have to create a visual for each class!!!”, however, you do not have to do this. I create one visual per grade level. I give each class a chance to share their answers to the key question and jot these ideas down in my journal. For example, I have three grade 5 classes, so each of these classes had a crack at the plate with sharing answers related to the key question. Once the entire grade level had a chance to explore the key question and share their answers, I had the visual ready to go.
Could you even use one visual across a few grade levels? Yes, I’ve done this before and it works well but requires a more specific structure. I don’t have the time to go into here, but if you want to know more about this contact me directly for details.
As the students came around for the second class, the visual was up. This visual served as a provocation itself as I had the students partner up with someone and do a walk and talk discussing the answers already given and seeing if they could come up with any more big ideas related to the key question. This is how we began the second class and in most cases the students were able to narrow in on a couple further ideas that could be added to the visual. I recorded additional answers in my journal and added these answers to the visual the next prep period that I had.
I also used some other provocations in video form to get students to dig deeper into the key question. After seeing the visual that was created, I showed a couple of classes YouTube videos of super active people of all ages to lots of different activities to emphasize that physical activity should be a part of our lives forever.
So, to sum up, Step 2 of the ‘supercharging student reflection’ blog post series is all about making student thinking visible and explicit. For me personally, I love creating visuals by hand with lots of different coloured markers but it is not necessary to do it this way. Many of you reading this blog post series are extremely innovative and resourceful educators. How you choose to make their thinking and learning visible is up to you. However, I want to emphasize that making it visible and explicit is a non-negotiable of good teaching. It’s something that must be done!!!
Before moving on to Step 3, I want you to reflect on the first two steps and begin to think about your own students. What key question would you use to help initiate discussion related to the importance that PE plays in the lives of your students? How would you record their answers? What types of provocation would you use? How would you make their thinking, their ideas and answers visible and explicit?
Thanks for reading. I’ll have Step 3 up on my blog within a couple of days. Any questions? Feel free to post them in the comment box below.