Opinion
Teaching Opinion

Scaffold Reflection for Deeper Metacognition and Better Feedback

By Starr Sackstein — March 21, 2019 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

It wasn’t until after I developed a system in my classroom for effective reflection and feedback that I realized the impact it truly had on learning.

That probably sounds backward, but it’s true.

Although I always saw the value in reflecting personally, even if I didn’t call it reflection, making it an essential part of the learning in my classroom didn’t happen for a long time.

As a teacher, I reflected in a number of ways, but it wasn’t until I completed my National Board certification, where I had to record my lessons, watch them, and analyze them that I realized how much I could learn about myself as an educator and person when I just took the time to slow down, consider my work, and make adjustments.

In the classroom, this process started with reflections following assignments. They weren’t specific yet, they were just asking students to share what they learned and how they knew they learned it.

Much of the time, they told me whether or not they enjoyed the learning, which wasn’t necessarily what I was shooting for, but it certainly provided interesting feedback.

The more I thought about how to be intentional with reflection and the more I reflected on the reflecting students were sharing, I was able to codify a practice that we implemented across classrooms in my old school starting with our 6th graders and ending with our seniors.

By scaffolding the process with a series of questions that really helped students consider their own learning, they could start thinking about more than what they liked or didn’t like and more about what they knew and could do. They began to articulate learning in a clear and methodical way. And the more we did it, the better I could give them feedback and address the system of how we reflect.

Ultimately, students presented an essay about their learning that took me through their process: What were they asked to do? The reason we spent time on this was that if I could adjust my lens to what they thought, then I could really evaluate what they did. Too often teachers expect students to do tasks that aren’t really well defined, and it isn’t until we see student work that we realize that we missed the mark. By using the student’s understanding, we are able to assess what they meant to do instead of what we meant them to do.

The next few paragraphs are about the process of doing the learning. How did the students approach and complete the assignment? What steps did they take? This can often be completed as they go so they don’t leave anything out. Additionally, this is an opportunity for students to talk about goals they set and feedback they have received. Speaking to how they used the feedback in their work and whether or not it was helpful. Getting students to label steps and strategies helps them articulate ways for asking for help and pinpointing what they know and can do.

After taking me through the steps, now I want to know about the learning. Students have to explain their learning against the standards and show evidence from their work to support what they say. It’s not enough to say they are meeting the standard about transitions; they will need to cite a transition from their work that shows they have met or exceeded this standard.

After exploring what they were able to accomplish, students discuss the challenges they faced, how they overcame them or not, and then what they would do differently next time. This helps the teacher provide better feedback and ensures different strategies if necessary in the future.

The very last part is the self-assessment: What does the student believe he/she earned in their grade aligned with whatever rubric and/or success criteria that has been decided upon? The student then provides a brief summary of why, and the reflection is complete.

If the teacher reads these reflections prior to reviewing work, the lens through which he/she can then provide feedback on the work is clearly spelled out. Each student gets a very specific read that is aligned to what they were working on, areas of strength to validate, and/or areas of challenge to provide more strategies.

At first this will feel cumbersome, and students will likely complain, but eventually, they will see the point and appreciate the opportunity to share their learning in this way.

How do you use reflection in your class? How does it support future instruction? Please share

*Poster made by Starr Sackstein

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Opinion You Can Motivate Students to Accelerate Learning This Year
If young people suffered setbacks during the pandemic, it doesn’t mean they’re broken. Now is the chance to cover more ground than ever.
2 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Getty
Teaching Opinion A 6th Grade Class on Racism Got Me Ready for the Rest of My Life
Every student should have the opportunity to learn about race, writes a college freshman.
Cristian Gaines
4 min read
Illustration of silhouettes of people with speech bubbles.
Getty
Teaching Opinion The Classroom-Management Field Can’t Stop Chasing the Wrong Goal
And, no, new social-emotional-learning initiatives aren’t the answer, writes Alfie Kohn.
Alfie Kohn
5 min read
Illustration of children being cut free from puppet strings
Daniel Fishel for Education Week
Teaching Photos What School Looks Like When Learning Moves Outside
One class of 5th graders shows what's possible when teachers take their lessons outside.
1 min read
Teacher Angela Ninde, right, works with students in their garden at Centreville Elementary School in Centreville, Va., on Sept. 7, 2021.
Teacher Angela Ninde, right, works with students in their garden at Centreville Elementary School in Centreville, Va.
Jaclyn Borowski/Education Week